More than 30 years after Lance Jackson’s football career came to an end, he will complete his degree this week.
By Alan Cannon, Texas A&M University Athletics
Lance Jackson may be one of the oldest graduates to walk the stage at Reed Arena on Friday morning (9 a.m.) as he earns his bachelor’s degree in recreation, park and tourism sciences, but that does not diminish his enthusiasm for Texas A&M and the Spirit of Aggieland.
“I made a promise to myself and to many teachers and coaches to finish what I started,” Jackson said. “That Aggie Spirit of never giving up, keep pressing on, is very real. It’s important for me to walk the stage to thank the people who have supported me through the years. My seventh grade English teacher was also my English 4 teacher in high school, she is 90 years old and may show up Friday.”
Jackson was a 1980 second-team All-State selection out of Temple High School where he played for Coach Bob McQueen and helped the Wildcats win the state championship in 1979. (McQueen is the grandfather of Aggie quarterback Connor McQueen.)
“I chose Texas A&M because I felt it would be a great place to get an education. The people there were friendly and the atmosphere was relaxing. I could not change my mind because of that great Aggie Spirit” is what is listed in the biography of Jackson in the 1981 Texas A&M football media guide.
Jackson would fight through injuries and he earned football letters as a defensive back in 1983, 1984 and the Southwest Conference Championship season of 1985 that ended with a Cotton Bowl victory over Auburn and Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson.
“I can see a lot of similarities between my playing days and my education,” Jackson explained. “We struggled early in the 1980s but with the final two games of the 1984 season we knew we were coming together. That 1985 season was special with Coach (Jackie) Sherrill, Coach (R.C.) Slocum and Coach Curley Hallman, my defensive backs coach.
“In school, I was working on a kinesiology degree and there was a mix up with paper work and some paper had me withdrawn from school,” Jackson said. “I was tired of school at that time. Then in the spring of 1986, Miss Lillian Jean Clark Robinson hired me to work at the Lincoln Center in College Station.”
Jackson says he has just “grown up” with the people at the College Station Parks and Recreation Service and the City of College Station personnel. He has served the past 19 years as the supervisor of the Lincoln Center.
“The area where the Lincoln Center is located reminds me of growing up in Temple,” Jackson said. “Ms. Jean took a chance on me, and I consider the work at the Lincoln Center and the Boys and Girls Clubs more of a calling.”
Jackson says he has always felt welcomed in Aggieland.
“Since my days of playing football here in Aggieland, I have always been an Aggie, but having that Aggie ring and now the degree is very important,” Jackson said.
That initial trip back to the classroom was not without trepidation.
“I thought, ‘What am I doing with these young people?’ and thought about turning around and leaving,” Jackson explained. “But the students, professors such as Dr. (John) Crompton and other staff members embraced me. I worked on group projects and had study groups help me make it through, even though I was a little older than the normal student.”
“Excellence. Integrity. Leadership. Loyalty. Respect. And Selfless Service. These words describe an amazing student – Mr. Lance Jackson! He is a true leader that has inspired so many people by being willing to give his strength to others so that they can stand on their own. His involvement and commitment to the youth and families that enter the Lincoln Recreation Center and his support of his fellow students here in the department are embodied in the Aggie Core Values. As a dedicated Recreation and Parks professional, he is truly making a difference in so many lives,” Associate Professor & Youth Development Program Coordinator Corliss W. Outley said.
“Lance was the type of student that every professor loves to have in class,” C. Scott Shafer, Professor & Department Head for Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, said. “He is naturally curious and has years of experience to draw on in class discussions. Lance carries himself with a quiet confidence and listens carefully to others. His curious, caring and thoughtful approach to life speaks volumes about his success as a student and in his years of success in molding young people.”
Jackson says you’re never too old to complete a task, especially when it comes to education.
“I have learned a great deal from the professors and people in my major and that education will help me be a better director and an overall better person in helping others,” Jackson stated.
This story by Alan Cannon originally appeared on 12thman.com.