STARTING OVER: To save his football career, Trishton Jackson left home for Syracuse

first_imgTrishton Jackson sat in his room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego two Decembers ago and thought about life. He considered his three teammates kicked off the team after the four came to college together 11 months prior. He considered the younger players on Michigan State’s wide receiver depth chart exceeding his dwindling role. And he considered how his dream school revealed itself as detrimental to him.Jackson said a prayer to himself that night — something he made up in the moment and doesn’t remember today. Then he called his mother, Carol. He admits now that he was too close to home, but he fails to explain precisely what that entailed. Two days before the Spartans thrashed Washington State in the 2017 Holiday Bowl, Jackson had made his decision to transfer.On the phone that night, Carol sensed her son’s conflicted mind. She asked him if he was happy.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I don’t think I was at that time,” Jackson said. “I was low at that point.”,He came to the hard realization that there wasn’t a path for him to succeed at Michigan State. In Syracuse, he’s followed a better trajectory since enrolling in January of 2018. After a year in limbo — the make-or-break period of Jackson’s transfer — his decision paid off. In his first game for SU, he reeled in an acrobatic touchdown catch in the Orange’s Camping World Bowl win over West Virginia.“I had faith that when I’d come here I’d be more focused,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t be too close to home. I wouldn’t want to call Mom everyday, stuff like that. I would have to grow up and mature as a man. And I think I’ve been doing a really good job of doing that.”Michigan State was a natural landing spot for Jackson out of high school. Playing quarterback at West Bloomfield (Michigan) High School in the suburbs of Detroit — 70 miles from East Lansing — Jackson grew up in the middle of the Michigan-MSU rivalry that divides the state. His former high school coach, Ron Bellamy, and close family friend Braylon Edwards both played wide receiver at Michigan.But Jackson had always been partial to the Spartans. He watched former MSU wideouts Plaxico Burress, Aaron Burbridge and Tony Lippett growing up, encountering the latter two playing high school football in the greater Detroit area. More than anything, Jackson loved the blue-collar nature the Spartans exemplified under head coach Mark Dantonio.The rising senior turned in a stellar performance, playing receiver at the 2015 rendition of the annual Sound Mind Sound Body football camp. In an address at the camp, to more than a thousand high school athletes, Dantonio told them, “You want to be the breadwinner, you want to be the man,” according to a story in the Detroit Free Press.Dantonio spoke to Jackson and his father, Obbie, after the camp, offering a gray shirt to play wideout. The next day, MSU offered a scholarship and Jackson committed 24 hours later.The quarterback-turned-pass catcher exceeded expectations his first season for the Spartans by just cracking the rotation of mostly upperclassmen, finishing with five receptions, 89 yards and a touchdown. With the departure of three of MSU’s top four pass catchers to graduation, Jackson should’ve been one of the Spartans’ top returning options.Then, the Spartans lost the fourth receiver of that group and Jackson saw how fast circumstances could change. In January 2017, freshman wide receiver Donnie Corley, along with fellow freshmen Josh King and Demetric Vance, were suspended and ultimately dismissed from the team in June 2017 for alleged sexual assault. It was shocking for Jackson to see three close friends were removed in a matter of months.“I definitely got that realization, about how life can change so quickly,” Jackson said. “And it made me mature, to make the decision to leave. I think I matured from that situation.”Even with MSU’s top four receivers from 2016 gone, Jackson stagnated in 2017, catching just seven more passes than the year prior for a mere 143 total yards. He never got into the end zone and three true freshmen had more receptions for more yards.The coaching staff at MSU wasn’t the best fit for Jackson, either, he said. Orders were given without explanation and, even when well-intended, rubbed the wrong way. Though the relationship soured, Jackson holds no ill will toward Michigan State.“It’s more Saban-esque, business-y-like vibes and I don’t think everybody liked what he had to say about things,” Jackson said about Dantonio and the culture at Michigan State.Neither Dantonio or then-wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel were made available for interviews by Michigan State for this story.Jackson’s high school coach, Bellamy, got a call from MSU’s coaching staff that the receiver was transferring. The coach reached out to Jackson to figure out what was going on. Then, he started calling college coaches. One of them was to Vinson Reynolds, Syracuse’s defensive line coach who’d previously recruited Jackson’s older brother to Western Michigan. Bellamy told Reynolds that Jackson had interest in SU.Bellamy then looped in Evan Foster, Jackson’s high school teammate and current SU safety, and asked whether Syracuse could be a good place for Jackson.,After he realized he would have an opportunity to win a starting job or significant playing time Jackson and his mother visited Syracuse in January 2018.SU head coach Dino Babers entered the meeting and started with two questions.“First he asked me if I’m fast and of course I said, ‘Yeah,’” Jackson said. “Then he asked me would I like to catch 100 balls. And I said, ‘Of course, yes.’”Carol saw her son “light up like a Christmas tree” talking to Babers. He knew the Orange wanted him as much as he wanted them.The commitment came with the year-long wait Division I football transfers must go through when changing schools, finishing two semesters in residence before becoming eligible. During spring ball, Jackson practiced with his new team and continued with summer workouts. While the rest of the team prepared to play Western Michigan, Jackson toiled through camp toward a season on the scout team, emulating the opponent’s receivers week-to-week.Back at MSU, the receivers that in-part squeezed Jackson out of its rotation almost all got hurt. In total, eight receivers combined to miss 23 games in 2018 for MSU. It was a window, one that Jackson knew he might have to live with missing when he made this decision.Two years ago, Jackson would’ve seen the injuries and felt he made the wrong choice. Instead, he was at peace waiting for the opportunity he knew would come at SU.A new NCAA rule allowed both Jackson and Oklahoma transfer running back Abdul Adams to play in SU’s bowl game last season. When Jackson got the news, he called Bellamy and told him he had a surprise.“He was like, ‘I might be eligible to play in the bowl game,’” Bellamy remembered Jackson saying. “You know, I didn’t know the rule. I was like, ‘Dude. We’ve had this discussion. You have to sit out a year.’”,Jackson caught a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter in the Camping World Bowl, making what he hopes to be the first of many plays for Syracuse in his two years of eligibility remaining.Finally eligible and finally in a place he’s mentally at peace, Jackson has become good friends with his quarterback, Tommy DeVito, playing paintball and eating steak. He’s bonded with the receivers, taking some leadership in organizing additional workouts in the summer with skill position players and going with them to see ‘The Lion King.’ He’s in a place he believes that will benefit him on and off the football field.When his mom asks him if he’s happy now, the answer is obvious.Cover photo by Corey Henry, Photo Illustration by Sarah Allam Published on August 29, 2019 at 1:53 am Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. Commentslast_img read more

Whicker: What did the Angels know about Tyler Skaggs – and when?

first_imgThis is the 40th anniversary of the boisterous Pittsburgh Pirates, who shrugged off a 3-1 deficit in the 1979 World Series and won it.All their noises were joyful. All the pitches they saw were hittable, and their strike zone stretched to the Goodyear blimp. And when they won the NLCS over Cincinnati, their spouses and girlfriends danced on top of the dugout to the tune of “We Are Family.”Ever since, team-as-family has been a familiar marketing trope. A million media tape recorders are clogged with the heartfelt words: “This team is closer than any I’ve ever seen.”It’s true that any shared endeavor brings people together, whether it’s Habitat for Humanity or community theater. Angels’ poor pitching spoils an Albert Pujols milestone Maybe everyone remembered Josh Hamilton. The Angels signed him in 2012 for $125 million and paraded him around like the MVP he was. They, of course, knew Hamilton was a cocaine addict who, in Texas, had the minders and monitors he needed.When he relapsed as an Angel, following disappointing play and injuries, the Angels removed his jerseys from the gift shop. Hamilton wasn’t their brother, he was just heavy. They disowned him.Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is just now considering testing players for the most serious drug problem in the world. It ignores opioids but sets up a system to make sure players aren’t bulking themselves up to hit artificial home runs. Then it winks and supplies the game with helium-filled baseballs.No wonder players feel as if they’re just prime cuts at the butcher shop. They cease to become “assets” when their skills disappear.Tyler Skaggs’ life is gone. Eric Kay’s will never be the same. Would one be alive, and the other well, if their workplace was a family that valued the telling of the cold, hard truth? It’s too late to know, but others can learn. Much needs to be learned about what happened to Tyler Skaggs on July 1. But even though we fondly remember all the “45” jerseys that were dropped onto the mound at Angel Stadium, and even though it still haunts to visualize Skaggs’ jersey hung up in the dugout, the Angels can please quit telling us they’re a family.The club maintains it had no idea Skaggs was hooked on opioids. That will be the legal defense. Eric Kay, the communications director who is cooperating with the DEA, says he told his boss, communications vice-president Tim Mead, who says that’s not true. Mead, the most dogged defender and proponent of the Angels’ organization and an employee for 40 years, left to become president of the Baseball Hall of Fame in June.Kay took a leave from the Angels for what was called “depression” but for what we now know is treatment for opioid addiction. He told the DEA he fetched drugs for Skaggs, with five other Angels eventually joining in, and that he got drugs for Skaggs before the Angels flew to Texas on June 30.As all parties circle the wagons and the lawyers, one distasteful truth rises above all. If no one with the Angels truly knew that Skaggs was in trouble, that blows away the family myth, because, obviously, no one saw the benefit of saying so.In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. There were 40,000 deaths from guns in 2017. There were 58,000 Americans killed in the entirety of the Vietnam War.Given a real family atmosphere, either Skaggs or Kay or someone else would have felt the freedom to pull the alarm, to go to upper management with no fear of retribution and say that a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher and clubhouse leader was approaching the brink, and that action was required. There is no taboo in doing that, not when 70,000 people are dying of something.Obviously, no one felt comfortable enough to do that.Related Articles Jose Suarez’s rocky start sinks Angels in loss to Astros But you could also say that the clubhouse is tight because the players are not family.In fact, teams are often an escape from family, an opportunity to belong to a group of colleagues without the blood obligation to grieve and confront.We know that families can be hard places, deep sources of tension, disappointment, outrage, sometimes violence.How many athletes-turned-fathers have put their sons through more hellish demands than they’d ever impose on a teammate or someone else’s child? What percentage of American literature and music is devoted to the damage attributed to ties that no longer bind?A baseball season is a carpet ride. A family is real life. And when the crises come, family members tend to do what needs to be done. If needed, they intervene.center_img Angels’ Shohei Ohtani spending downtime working in outfield Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Angels’ Mike Trout working on his defense, thanks to Twitter Angels offense breaks out to split doubleheader with Astros last_img read more