ESPN didn’t become a part of our nation’s culture until 1979 when it was launched Sept. 7, but had the network been operational a decade earlier, there is no doubt that Isaac Jackson would have been featured on the “SportsCenter” plays of the day on numerous occasions.
Jackson, who played his high school football for Goot Steiner at Lanier, is, with apologies to Billy Henderson and Danny Minor, the most electrifying back to ever come out of Macon. In his junior season, he led the Poets to a 10-1-1 record and a No. 3 final ranking in GHSA Class AAA. That year, he scored 21 touchdowns while rushing for 1,940 yards. One of those touchdowns came on a 74-yard scamper against Valdosta in the Class AAA quarterfinals, Lanier’s only touchdown in a 27-7 loss. Wildcats head coach Wright Bazemore, who won 14 state titles during his career, said, “In all my years of coaching, that is the greatest run I have ever seen.”
Jackson attracted plenty of attention for his exploits going into his senior season. Venture Magazine, a national publication, named him the nation’s No. 1 high school back, and he was a preseason All-American by Kickoff Magazine after being named All-Southern as a junior.
And even with no ESPN, he still made the big time on network TV. Following his junior season, Jackson was featured on a CBS News 20-minute film segment entitled “See Isaac Run.” Jackson’s son, Jamal, has produced an updated version of the piece, which will be shown at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on July 18. The event is free and open to the public.
In the opening game of his final year against Appling,, Jackson scored on a 56-yard punt return the first time he touched the football. That was the first of four touchdowns he had that night on runs of 3, 16 and 72 yards. He also had a two-point conversion. Jackson suffered a sprained ankle in the win over Appling and was slowed the entire season, scoring just six touchdowns.
Even with the injury, Jackson was highly sought after on the recruiting trail with Georgia’s Vince Dooley wanting to have him become the Bulldogs’ first black player in program history. But that didn’t work out, and Jackson chose South Carolina, but he failed to meet that school’s academic entrance requirements and landed at Kansas State after being recruited by Forsyth native Bobby Jackson, who was a Wildcats assistant for Vince Gibson.
At Kansas State, Isaac Jackson became one of the school’s most prolific runners ever. He rushed for 1,137 yards in 1973, when he gained more than 100 yards in six consecutive games, and he had a career rushing total of 2,182 yards. He held the Kansas State single-season rushing record for 27 years, and his career rushing mark stills ranks as ninth best all-time in the program’s history.
Jackson was drafted by Cincinnati in the 15th round of the 1974 NFL draft, but he never played in a regular-season game for the Bengals.
Following his football playing days, Jackson and his family settled in Aurora, Colorado, where he worked in computer graphics. He died much too young at age 47 after suffering an aneurism in December of 1999.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org