FAYETTEVILLE – An illustrated dictionary defining “no good deed goes unpunished,” could post Colton Jackson’s picture.
Because for returning just three games into the 2018 season off July 24 back surgery, it seems left offensive tackle Jackson got punished for the Razorbacks’ 2-10 record.
According to his University of Arkansas media guide biography, Jackson, starting eight of Arkansas’ last nine games, “allowed just one sack over the course of 305 pass blocking plays.”
That stat does not reflect last year the social media criticism the 6-5, 298 now fifth-year senior from Conway absorbed last year playing in September when his return was expected deep into October.
Instead he got social media lit up for appearing still in his stance as 2018 quarterback Ty Storey got sacked in November against Mississippi State.
Turns out Jackson was doing his job avoiding illegal procedure. The ball was prematurely snapped.
“I shouldn’t have snapped the ball,” center Ty Clary confessed. “It looks like Colton just didn’t move but that’s my fault. I need to take the blame for that.”
Jackson tested his surgically repaired back mopping up the fourth quarter of Game Three, the Razorbacks’ 44-17 loss on Sept. 15 to North Texas, then started eight of Arkansas’ last nine games.
“I had ruptured three disks in my spine and had to get them built back up,” Jackson said. “And they had to wrap up a sac of nerves that’s at the bottom of your spine that had pain running up and down my legs.”
Jackson worked hard to get back fast only to hear how poorly some deemed his performance on a struggling team.
“A lot of people didn’t know I had back surgery,” Jackson said. “They don’t know what it’s like to come back from that playing in a SEC game. I wasn’t supposed to come back until Week 7. I came back in Week 3. I kind of rushed my recovery and definitely had my limitations the way I moved and all that stuff. But that’s not something I’m going to hang my hat on and say, ‘That’s why I didn’t perform well.’ It’s just a lot of things people don’t see on the outside and they don’t know what’s going on the inside.”
Arkansas Coach Chad Morris and offensive line coach Dustin Fry knew what Jackson endured.
“I don’t read Twitter, but I know he does, and I know there was some nasty things said to him after a couple of those games last year,” Fry said. “I know that’s fired him up a little bit. More than a little bit.”
Infusing new fuel to the fire figured to fan the flames within Jackson and the other returning linemen, Fry presumed.
“One reason we signed two juco tackles (junior college transfers Myron Cunningham and Chibueze Nwanna UA enrolled last January) was to piss off my other tackles,” Fry said.
Goes with the territory, Jackson knows discerning not taking it personally yet personally rising to the competition.
“That’s just part of the game,” Jackson said. “I’m used to it. When you go out recruiting, you’re looking to replace guys and create competition. Nobody’s spot is secure.”
Cunningham pushed hard for Jackson’s left tackle job last spring.
But Jackson held him off. The former Conway Wampus Cat opened the August preseason first-team even upon missing the last week of spring ball because of arthroscopic knee surgery.
Jackson said he’s fully recovered from the procedure that “cleaned up some chipped bone fragments that were floating around.”
The senior prevails on merit but his seniority helps, too. With three 2018 graduated Razorbacks offensive linemen now auditioning for NFL jobs, Jackson is the line’s old hand helping not only newcomers with the freshman and juco transfer, Cunningham now also learning right tackle with top backup Noah Gatlin (torn anterior cruciate ligament) out for the season) but returnees, too.
“I thought Colton’s seven (spring) practices before he got banged up, were the best I’ve seen him practice since I’ve been here,” Fry said. “He’s been a great leader for me.”
Austin Capps, a senior 3-year letterman but only last preseason moved from defensive tackle to left offensive guard, looks to the senior to his immediate left.
“Colton Jackson has always been a guy that if I need to ask something he’s somebody I can go to,” Capps said. “He’s solid.”
Four years adorning the SEC Honor Roll, Jackson since January is a UA grad student upon achieving his sports management degree last December.
Jackson seeks hitting this last football season like he’s hit the books.
“I’ve got a lot to prove and show this season,” Jackson said.