Senior co-captain and preseason All-American is an anchor of health for the Eagles as they prepare to host Portland State
By Hayden Indahl, EWU Sports Information
Being the anchor of health on the offensive line for the Eastern Washington University football team, senior Gabriel Jackson will start his 27th-straight game Saturday (Oct. 29) when the Eagles host Portland State University at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Coming from Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Wash., this Eagle is making his 34th start overall, which is the highest on his side of the ball. The senior co-captain is one of 16 Eastern seniors who will be recognized Saturday in pre-game ceremonies at “The Inferno.”
With all the injuries this season on the offensive line, Jackson has been the glue for the replacements, and he has stepped it up as a leader for his teammates on and off the field. A total of 10 players have started this season along the offensive line, where five players have missed action because of injuries.
He was a second team All-Big Sky Conference selection and started all 15 games as EWU won the NCAA Division I Championship last year. He received preseason All-BSC and All-America honors entering the 2011 season.
With the game this weekend being the last home game in his career, Jackson hopes to leave a legacy that people will continue to talk about.
Q: What has it been like to see so many of your fellow offensive linemen go down with injuries?
“It has been a crazy year. Our injuries have been a concern, and being one of the only starters left, it’s kind of almost scary seeing your buddies go down and having to work with the new guys. All the credit goes to our coaches because they really coach up the young guys to be ready to step in when they need to. Credit our coaches.”
Q: What has your role been in helping the replacements learn their roles?
“I’ve had to definitely change how I practice and provide more communication on the O-line during games especially. During practice you kind of need to let them know the little things that will help them during games that maybe you don’t have to tell veterans because they have been there and done that. It’s just been a little change, a little different.”
Q: With 34 career starts to rank as the most on your side of the ball, how does it feel to be the veteran of the offense?
“I don’t really think about it like that. Now that I hear it, I think it’s kind of cool to know that I have the most starts, but I never really thought about it. It’s just one of those things where you go out and play and look at the stats later.”
Q: You’ve started 26-straight games now, what’s your secret to good health?
“Secret? I don’t know if I have a secret, but I’ve always tried to really work hard in the off season to prepare for the season. That’s probably the biggest thing -- the workouts in the summer and winter help us stay healthy, get stronger and stay flexible. I think those things have allowed me to stay healthy this year.”
Q: What does it mean to you to be named one of the team’s co-captains for the 2011 season?
“That was huge actually. One of my goals from when I first came to Eastern was to become a captain, lead and do things the right way -- this year I got the chance to do that. It was huge as a personal accomplishment. I think it’s something I will be able to look back on and say I was a captain, and that will be something I can hang my hat on.”
Q: Can you survive all the injuries and win three more games?
“Yes, definitely. You can’t think about injuries because if you think about them you are not going to be able to play fast. Playing fast is key, so I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and I will be alright.”
Q: Besides the national title, what has been the highlight of your career at Eastern?
“I would have to say beating Montana last year on the Red turf and having my friends and family rush the field. That was a crazy game -- definitely a highlight of my career.”
Q: What do you remember most about your first start in 2008 as a freshman against Sacramento State?
“I remember being a little nervous going into that game, but as soon as the game started the nerves went away. I do remember one thing -- I went out to cut block a player, and as he got up he intentionally kicked me. Ever since then I have disliked Sacramento State. I always play with a grudge on my shoulder when I play them.”
Q: You’ve had quite a few players make their starting debuts this season. What advice do you give them?
“Stay in your playbook, keep watching film and practice hard. When you make practice tough, games become easier. I think all of our players have done that and I think that’s one of the keys to our success. And listen to your coaches, because they usually know what’s best for you.”
Q: You are a criminal justice major at Eastern. What do you hope to do with your degree when you graduate?
“With the criminal justice degree, I have a few choices going into law enforcement or corrections. I want to finish out my psychology degree as well, then do something with my psychology and criminal justice degree together. As of now, I’m not too sure.”