Alaric “A.J.” Jackson can’t wait to get back to his home state of Michigan to play at Spartan Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Jackson, who was known more for his basketball play while at Detroit Renaissance, will be the starting left tackle for the Iowa Hawkeyes, who face the Spartans at 4 p.m.
Iowa (3-1, 0-1) came up just short of pulling off a big upset last weekend when Penn State scored on the game’s final play to pull out a 21-19 win over the Hawkeyes.
At Renaissance, Jackson was finally talked into going out for football his junior year, then showed his potential by landing 15 Division I offers heading into his senior season, finally deciding on Iowa over fellow Big Ten programs Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Now, Jackson is a starter in his redshirt freshman season.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the older guys on the offensive line, guys like (seniors) Boone Myers and Ike Boettger,” Jackson told The Detroit News this week. “The O-line as a whole is a close-knit group, along with Coach Ferentz, and they all have gotten me ready to play this year.
Jackson, who is now 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds, also gives a lot of credit to Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
“I came here around 340 and shed 20 pounds, and I mainly now have a lot more muscle than fat,” Jackson said. “He really helped me with my speed, conditioning, strength. I move better now and feel stronger.”
Jackson says first-year Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek has improved Jackson’s technique.
“I’ve done a lot of work with getting my steps down, run blocking with my first step,” he said. “(Polasek) has done a great job with me. He’s helped me in getting acclimated to how football goes. Really, all the guys have really believed in me with this being my first time starting.”
Jackson is looking forward to playing at MSU.
“It’s going to be fun to come home and see family and friends, get the chance to play Michigan State,” Jackson said.
Cedrick Lattimore (Detroit East English), a 6-5, 295-pound defensive lineman, will also be getting some playing time for the Hawkeyes. He was one of 10 Hawkeyes to play as a true freshman last season.