Jan. 2, 2007
By George Mauzy
Ohio University football player Ervin Jackson has survived his share of tough times the past two years.
Jackson is a junior safety from Kiln, Miss., who came to Ohio University in 2005 after winning a national championship at Pearl River Junior College in Mississippi. Before junior college, he was a standout at Hancock High School in Kiln.
His excitement and anticipation were building for his first season at Ohio when he and his immediate family were suddenly transformed into a national statistic. Like so many millions of people living in the Gulf Coast area, Jackson and his family suffered the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005.
When the hurricane arrived, Jackson was in Athens, Ohio, after a two-year career at Pearl River Junior College in Mississippi. Jackson's home, which he shared with two of his four sisters and a five-year-old nephew, was completely destroyed by the hurricane. He says he is thankful that his family was not injured. They have relocated to a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer in Prentiss, Miss.
Then life added injury to insult.
"I suffered a serious hamstring injury during preseason practice around the same day the hurricane hit my house," Jackson says. "Then a few weeks later during the week of the Virginia Tech game, I tore ligaments in my knee and was out for the season."
Jackson was unprepared for what he saw on his first trip home after the hurricane.
"I went home last December, and Kiln looked like the hurricane had just hit the town the day before," he says. "Now more than a year later, people don't know that there is still a lot of work to be done to rebuild the area."
On a recent trip to Mississippi, Jackson got a taste of how the disaster affected everyday life.
"What you see is people going to work all day and going home afterward to work on rebuilding their home," Jackson says. "It's sad to see the destruction still there, but I know the town will eventually be rebuilt -- it will just take time."
People in Kiln still remember the lasting impression Jackson made.
"The things you remember about Ervin are that he is a fun person who is always smiling and he has a lot of spirit," says Regina Moran, finance secretary at Hancock High School in Kiln. "He ran track with my daughter, Erica, and was always encouraging her and his other teammates to do their best. He is an outstanding young man who was very popular in town and I always pray he does well in life."
After a good offseason of rehabilitation, Jackson came into the 2006 football season with high expectations, but the injury bug struck again. This year injuries to his back and hamstring slowed his development, but his play improved late in the season. He started his first game for Ohio at Miami University on Nov. 24.
"We have always had high hopes for Ervin," says Jimmy Burrow, Ohio University defensive coordinator and safeties coach. "He has been healthy enough to make a contribution this year, and he's a physical player who helps the defense."
"The injuries have been frustrating because I came to Ohio University with high expectations. However, I'm not going to complain about the injuries, because I'm grateful to play college football," Jackson says.
Despite a tough couple of years, Jackson looks forward to playing in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., which is about a 90-minute drive east of his hometown. The Bobcats' opponent, Southern Mississippi, is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., which is a 90-minute drive north of Kiln.
"I consider this bowl game a homecoming and I can't wait to play Southern Miss where many of my friends play football or go to school," Jackson says. "As a team, we are excited and looking forward to showing the people down there what Ohio University is all about."
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.