His dad was a local football legend, but he wants to know more

Locals remember seeing Isaac run

Jamal Jackson is working on a documentary on his dad, Isaac Jackson, who was a standout running back for Lanier High School in the late 1960s. This is a trailer for Jamal's project.
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Jamal Jackson is working on a documentary on his dad, Isaac Jackson, who was a standout running back for Lanier High School in the late 1960s. This is a trailer for Jamal's project.

Wherever Lanier High School’s No. 25 took a handoff on the football field, the odds were decent that he might score.

Running back Isaac Jackson ran for 1,940 yards and scored 21 touchdowns during his junior year, rushing for more than 100 yards in all but one game, said Lanier historian Arthur “Bubba” Schmidt.

Jackson graduated in 1970, right before Lanier became Central High. He went on to have a successful career at Kansas State University and then was selected during the NFL draft.

Bobby Pope, a former chairman of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Authority, called him “the most electrifying back to ever come out of Macon.”

Through a documentary project, his son, Jamal Jackson, is hoping to learn more about his father’s exploits and make sure others know about the sports legend.

“It’s been almost 50 years now since Isaac played, and it’s a shame that so many people don’t know who he was and what an impact he made in the community,” Schmidt said. “Everybody just seemed to rally around him.”

Isaac Jackson lived to see his son play his first season of football as a high school sophomore, but he died at age 47 after an aneurism in December 1999. Jamal Jackson, who lives in Colorado where he was born and raised, remembers his dad as a loving and caring man and a jack-of-all-trades.

He’d heard people talk about his dad’s football skills and seen the 1969 “See Isaac Run” highlight reel that aired nationally on CBS, but he wanted to know more.

Jamal Jackson updated the film segment and aired it at an event at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. Now, he’s working on a full “See Isaac Run” documentary. He visited Macon in October to interview people who knew his father, and he’s been gathering articles and video footage and establishing contacts.

“I think I’m touching the tip of the iceberg. I think there’s so much more that I’ll learn about. There are so many people I want to talk to to learn who my dad was,” said Jackson, who is a school social worker and a student athlete counselor.

An ankle injury limited Isaac Jackson during his senior year of high school, but his junior year was one for the books. He led the team to a 10-1-1 record under coach Godfrey “Goot” Steiner. He ran 74 yards to score Lanier’s only touchdown in a quarterfinal loss to Valdosta High School, a perennial powerhouse, Schmidt said.

He was second in career touchdowns at Lanier, with 28 touchdowns in his junior and senior years. Ahead of him was Billy Henderson, who scored 43 touchdowns from 1942-45.

Lanier was in the process of integrating, and Jackson was one of the first black students on the football team, Schmidt said. He and defensive back J.T. Thomas, who later played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos, were the school’s first black superstars. Schmidt grew up going to Lanier games with his family and remembers watching Jackson’s magic on the field.

“When I think of the number 25, I think of Jackson,” he said. “Nobody seemed to be able to get a hand on him. … As a high school star, he’s in an elite class in Middle Georgia.”

The old Porter Stadium near Mercer University was packed every Friday night because of Jackson, said Pope, who covered some of Jackson’s games for WMAZ radio. Community members wore “See Isaac Run” buttons to the games and even during the week, Schmidt said.

“It was exciting. On Friday nights, people came to see Issac run,” said Dwight Jackson, who called his older brother a role model and leader to him and his siblings. “Isaac set the example for running backs at Central. He never was a bragger. He left it all on the field.”

Isaac Jackson was a competitor with a great work ethic. He “really wanted it” and was always training hard to get faster and better, he said.

“He was a phenomenal athlete,” Pope said. “Isaac was very shifty and elusive. He was a very reserved man. But on the football field, his accomplishments spoke a lot.”

In a time of big running backs, Isaac Jackson went against the mold as a small, quick player who was ready to fly any time there was an opening, Jamal Jackson said.

Just how fast was he? Teammate Ralph Clark remembers Isaac Jackson winning a 100-yard dash competition during a track meet with a time of 9.7 seconds.

He ran 2,182 yards during his college career at Kansas State and held the single-season rushing record for 27 years, Pope said.

“He was a special kind of athlete that doesn’t come around often,” Jamal Jackson said. “He didn’t just play off of his talents, but mentally, he was prepared to go out there and work and do better than the rest.”

If Jackson can raise enough money, he plans to hire a team to help with his documentary. He’s not sure how long the project will take, but he wants his grandmother – Isaac’s mother, Isabella Jackson, who still lives in Macon – to be able to see the finished product.

“People were just so grateful for that experience, seeing him on the field, seeing how humble he was,” Jamal Jackson said. “That’s the story I want to tell, that’s the story I want to learn and that’s the story that I want to share with Macon and the student athletes I work with.”

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

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