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Oct 02, 2020

The Polymath

By: Jackson Sternberg

Note: The following appears in the Virginia gameday football program.

Left offensive tackle Jackson Carman spends his Saturdays protecting Trevor Lawrence’s blindside and opening vast holes for Travis Etienne. He uses the other days of the week to hone his many talents that do not include punishing opposing pass rushers.

A self-described polymath, a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning, Carman is a talented chef, musician, artist and outdoorsman. His ability and desire to develop all these different skills comes from an inherent love of learning.

“I’m multi-talented, but it all comes from my talent of learning. Anything I want to do and anything that piques my interest, I go after and I do it.”

His passion for learning has manifested itself particularly when it comes to his musical endeavors. Carman can play the guitar, piano, ukulele, banjo, drums and cello. He also writes his own music to stimulate his creativity.

Similarly, in the kitchen, Carman embraces the challenge of developing new dishes with some limits. For example, he enjoys the opportunity to feed someone who is a picky eater or cannot eat certain food, because it forces him to be creative and find new ways to make the flavors work. Often times, he pulls together random ingredients and looks to make the best dish possible using just those.

Carman describes himself as the most “culinarily advanced person on the team,” but he did give Regan Upshaw credit for his skills in the kitchen.

The gentle giant, standing 6’5” and weighing 335 pounds, credited this innate talent and desire to learn for helping him understand the intellectual side of football. Learning new schemes and studying film is just another way Carman utilizes his brain power, and it allows him to be constantly prepared for whatever defenses throw at him.

Carman’s off-the-field prowess does not stop with his many talents. He was on the 2018 P.A.W. Journey trip to Costa Rica, where he needed every bit of his athletic ability.

“We built three houses and interacted with the children in the community, but we didn’t have any power tools with us. Everything we did was by hand. We mixed concrete and carried all the equipment to the houses. It was a very unique experience.”

The gifted learner wasted no time putting his skill to use and quickly managed to pick up enough Spanish to be able to interact with the locals.

It was not a given that the Fairfield, Ohio native would end up in a Tiger uniform. As his recruiting process drew to a close, his top three schools were Clemson, Ohio State and Southern California.

The former five-star recruit was ready to move out of Ohio, and he believed the culture at Clemson along with the winning football program would be the best place for him to reach his goals as both a player and person.

Throughout his time in Tigertown, Carman has made massive leaps in terms of his accountability. Early in his career, he had trouble waking up and being on time for team activities.

“I had bad habits, and bad habits are hard to break. I recognized that I needed to fix it. I used to sleep through alarms…they would turn themselves into sounds in my dream. I thought the best way to wake up was to get multiple alarms.”

Carman not only purchased several types of alarm clocks in order to fix his sleeping issue, he also sought help from a family member to ensure all his bases were covered.

“My cousin, Tramell, is deaf, and he gave me his hearing-impaired alarm clock, which shakes the bed and flashes and does a whole bunch of stuff.”

His cousin’s alarm clock worked in tandem with an old-fashioned windup alarm clock, as well as the normal alarms on his phone that were once incorporated into his dreams. After time, Carman’s sleeping habits changed, and he has now returned to solely using his phone to help him wake up and be on time for team activities.

Carman’s sleeping habits were not the only ones he worked to change after arriving at Clemson.

“When I got to college, I didn’t have a good relationship with food. I would use it as a vice and to cope emotionally. I didn’t understand how to fuel my body properly, and that bad habit was affecting my weight.”

During the process of remedying those habits, Carman used his learning talent to gather all the information he could about the human body and how to eat healthily and still put him in a position to dominate on the gridiron.

“I dropped a lot of weight and started learning about caloric deficit and what foods are healthy. I had to change my relationship with food and how I thought about it. It wasn’t a one-time thing either. It was a process of trial and error, trying to be consistent, and over time that led me to where I’m at now.”

The master chef now has a great relationship with food and is proud of where he is. Carman also looks forward to being able to teach others all that he has learned about maintaining healthy eating habits.

Along with his many off-the-field talents and his incredible football skill, Carman has also brought the energy to Death Valley over the last two seasons with a new and original tradition.

After touching Howard’s Rock and running down the Hill before every home game, he heads towards the student section, where he raises one arm to signal for that side of the section to rise, then the other, and then throws his hands to the ground and pounds his chest as he makes his way to the sideline.

“It was completely original and nothing really prompted me to do it. I knew no one else did something like that, and I thought it’d be cool to have that be my own. Hopefully, it’s a tradition that gets carried on after I leave.”

As a highly touted NFL prospect, Carman will inevitably be moving on to play at the professional level, but he cited freshman offensive lineman Walker Parks as a candidate to replace him in amping up the Death Valley crowd.

Before that day comes for someone to take on his creation, Carman is hoping to get the whole stadium in on his ritual, and it is something he is ecstatic to share with the loyal Tiger fanbase.

Despite his bright future in professional football, Carman is remaining focused on this season and being the best player he can be while still representing Clemson University. Regardless of where he ends up, this jack-of-all trades is certain to pick up new skills and abilities while also dominating his opponent in the trenches.