You couldn’t make up stories like Josh Jackson’s in the “Career Mode” of your favorite sports video game. Probably not even in a game of The Sims, or if you were writing your own movie script.
Jackson’s tale is a unique one, which is undoubtedly an understatement. The 6’1”, 235-pounder is a perplexing athlete in every sense of the word. But in his case, “physically imposing specimen” may be a more apt description.
Those aren’t terms people normally associate with aspiring professional golfers, despite what Happy Gilmore enthusiasts may believe. Because unlike Gilmore, Jackson doesn’t need to be violently waving golf clubs in order to scare you. Heck, he doesn’t even need to use words.
He lets his effortless 300-plus-yard drives and silky short game do the talking.
And, of course, his college football pedigree.
Jackson is the son of former NFL All-Pro left tackle John Jackson. So naturally, the Cincinnati native was inclined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Upon graduation he decided to attend Eastern Kentucky University, where he spent two seasons playing fullback and linebacker for the Colonels.
But ultimately, something was missing. It wasn’t skill. And it certainly wasn’t his competitive fire.
All he missed was the sport he truly loved.
“Golf was one of those things where I just couldn’t shake it,” Jackson said. “Every time I played in the summer I kept getting better and better. It became hard to ignore. I knew I couldn’t ignore it for much longer and obviously had a tough decision to make.”
Unfortunately, being a two-sport varsity athlete at Eastern Kentucky was not plausible. So Jackson decided to transfer to Kentucky State University after his sophomore year, where he was a varsity golfer and football player. He was essentially living Tony Romo’s dream, sans Carrie Underwood.
Then again, Tony Romo also couldn’t bench press 225 pounds 22 times, which is what Jackson recorded at his Kentucky State pro day. Yes, Jackson had legitimate NFL interest coming out of college. But he gave up that chance in order to pursue his lifelong passion of becoming a professional golfer.
“I came out of college as a fullback which is obviously a pretty tough position,” Jackson said. “But at the same time, it’s kind of dying in the NFL. You don’t see traditional fullbacks as much anymore. I just felt like from a career standpoint, I’d be able to last much longer with golf and hopefully have a successful career. I also just have such a love for the game. You see people playing into their 70’s and 80’s and I hope to be the same way.”
It brings up an interesting quandary. There are guys like Jackson, the son of a 14-year NFL star, who could be making a solid living giving hits, taking hits and doing everything in between in order to stick on an NFL roster. And if not in the NFL, then certainly a different reputable football league.
Sure, Jackson is just one example. But is it possible we could be seeing athletes that would typically do anything for a chance at the NFL to save their bodies (and more importantly, their brains, with concussions occurring more frequently than ever) and pursue non-contact sports such as golf?
“I never dealt with any major injuries at all, I’ve never had a concussion. But I’ve seen it with my Dad and his teammates. It depends, because someone needs to set that example in a positive way. Whether it’s me or someone else, who knows. But in terms of skill, I’d say golf has been tougher for me to pick up than football. So it’s definitely a huge challenge for someone to excel in both, but I think it’s possible.”
Just picture it now. Jimmy Graham teeing up a par five at the U.S. Open. Or Eddie Lacy prepping for the clinching putt at the Masters.
Granted, Josh Jackson may not have the football accolades of those kinds of guys. But if his quest for the PGA tour is successful, there is one thing that will always serve as his claim to fame.
He will be the one who chipped “conventional athletes” out of the rough.