Fred Jackson not bitter about UM, 'thankful' for time with Josh
The way former longtime Michigan football assistant Fred Jackson looks at it, maybe this was a serendipitous turn in his coaching career.
Jackson began as running backs coach at U-M in 1992 and endured three coaching changes, from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke. He was not, however, rehired by current coach Jim Harbaugh, a fact Jackson took in stride and with understanding.
"It's been a blessing," Jackson told The Detroit News. "I had a good run at Michigan."
With this year off – Jackson makes clear it's just one year and that he will be coaching somewhere, but he's not saying where, in the fall of 2016 – he has been able to devote time to his family, particularly youngest son, Josh, a dual-threat quarterback from Saline.
Josh Jackson announced on Thursday at Saline High his commitment to Virginia Tech, where he will work under offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, a former Michigan quarterback and coach, and an old family friend.
Now that his son's college future is decided, Jackson is taking a breather. But he is expected to continue substitute teaching at Saline, as he did in the spring, and will be able to watch all of his son's final high school games in person. The time off from coaching gave father and son the opportunity to enjoy the ultimate buddy trip, driving all over the country, thousands of miles, for recruiting visits.
Touring with the Jacksons
Jackson, rated by ESPN the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback and four stars (he has three stars from Scout and Rivals), had offers from Navy, Syracuse, West Virginia, Utah, Northwestern and most Mid-American Conference schools.
"Everywhere I took him, we drove," Fred Jackson said. "Long drives. The thing about recruiting, when you're driving with your son, it allows you time to talk about everything he should be looking for, everything we should be looking for.
"It was really interesting the questions he asked on his way to each place. His questions intensified as we'd get closer. He was thinking, 'I may go to this place,' so he asked more questions. That's a tremendous asset to be traveling with your son."
Jackson didn't have a similar opportunity with older son, Jeremy, a receiver who had a scholarship offer in eighth grade from Carr. He never looked elsewhere, even after the transition to Rodriguez.
For Josh, it was a tremendous asset traveling and taking visits with a father who has been in the coaching profession for decades and knows not only most of the coaches, but also the inner workings of recruiting.
Still, it was unique for him to experience recruiting from the other side of the table.
"They were very guarded around me, because they know all the things I know should be said or not said," Jackson said. "They held back around me.
"When Josh would meet with the position coach, I'd leave. Usually, the parents go to all the position meetings, but I didn't do that. I know Josh is very smart, he's mature, and he can read through what people are trying to tell him at each school. But if the coaches were talking about academics or talking about football in general, or if he was with the head coach, I didn't leave."
No hard feelings
Josh Jackson is rated the No. 1 quarterback in Michigan by Scout, but Fred said he has no hard feelings that Josh won't be playing for the Wolverines. Harbaugh, who has brought in a number of scholarship quarterbacks, including two transfers, did talk to both Jacksons during the recruiting process.
"Everything is good," Fred Jackson said. "My kids grew up here. Josh wanted to go there when he was little, but he understood after the recruiting process started he had to do what's best for him. I did tell Jim (Harbaugh) that Josh plays a lot like he did in high school, that he can run and he can throw on the run like he did."
The recruiting process can be a grind on coaches and players. For Fred Jackson, it allowed him a chance to bond with his youngest child and learn about him.
"I knew he was a great kid," Jackson said.
While teaching at Saline, Jackson enjoyed hearing so many positive comments about his son from people who work at the school and the students.
"I can't tell you I've enjoyed anything more, being a substitute teacher when your son is there," Jackson said. "He would eat lunch with me every day, and we'd sit down and talk about the day and talk about football. A lot of the mornings at 6:45, a lot of the coaches would come to see him -- Alabama, Penn State, Pitt, Utah, West Virginia, Syracuse and Virginia Tech -- and we'd be there early in the morning. That was good to be able to spend that time with him.
"I'm thankful I've had this chance."