Stamps Notes: Running back Don Jackson 'a little wiser' in Year 2
A lot can change in a year.
Rewind 12 months, and Don Jackson was just one of a handful of young running backs fighting for the job of replacing Jerome Messam at Calgary Stampeders training camp.
Today, his role is a whole lot different.
After winning the starting job in 2018 and playing a pivotal part in the Stampeders’ march to the Grey Cup, the 25-year-old entered training camp this year with a little more security than last year.
He wasn’t guaranteed the starting job, necessarily, but Jackson’s rookie season was impressive enough that there was never really much doubt.
After missing the first game of the pre-season because of a minor injury, he’s set to return to the lineup for Friday night’s pre-season game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver (8 p.m., TSN, 770 CHQR) for the first time since he caught a touchdown in the Stamps’ Grey Cup win last November.
“I’m really excited to get out there, I haven’t been hit in a long time, so that’s what I want to feel,” Jackson said. “I want to get out there, run around, make sure I’m locked in on all my assignments and be a positive influence on the field.”
That positive influence has been on display since Jackson joined the Stampeders.
Yes, the 924 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last season were hugely important to the Stampeders’ success, but Jackson was also surprisingly vocal on both the practice field and on game day.
This year, that has been even more pronounced.
When receivers dropped passes earlier in camp and had to do 10 push-ups, Jackson joined them on more than one occasion.
He doesn’t believe his role has changed much, though.
“I try to remain the same guy they signed last year,” Jackson said. “Just a little bit smarter, a little wiser and more experienced. Just take everything I learned last year and give it to the guys.”
Whether his role in the locker room has changed, Jackson certainly seems to be featuring a lot more prominently in the Stamps’ promotional materials this season and seems to have become a media favourite, too.
He moved to Calgary in February from Sacramento, Calif., and while Mother Nature ensured he didn’t exactly get a warm welcome, Jackson did get a couple of months training specifically for the Canadian game.
The injury that kept him out of last weekend’s pre-season opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders delayed his debut, but there’s a sense around McMahon Stadium that Jackson can build on his rookie season and do huge things 2019.
Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson is certainly looking forward to getting Jackson out on the field, as well as fellow running back Ka’Deem Carey, who also missed the team’s pre-season debut.
The stakes are different for the two, but Friday could offer a preview of what the Stamps have in store for their run-game this season.
“I need Don to play and Ka’Deem needs to earn a job,” Dickenson said. “It’s really tight right now. It’s tougher to earn a job when you’re not 100% but I think Ka”Deem has shown he’s ready to compete and hopefully he does well.”
The Stampeders made a couple of roster moves prior to Wednesday morning’s practice at McMahon Stadium.
The team released quarterback Troy Cook, running back Gerald Holmes and Canadian receiver Atlee Simon.
Cook was always facing an uphill battle to earn a job with the Stamps this year, seeing as the team had re-signed Bo Levi Mitchell and had backups Nick Arbuckle and Montell Cozart back from last year’s team. He completed the one pass he threw in Friday’s game against the Riders, for seven yards.
Holmes, meanwhile, had seven carries for 25 yards and a touchdown against the Riders, but was facing a tough fight against a crowded field of running back talent that the Stamps brought into camp.
Simon was in a similar boat. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 CFL Draft but returned to the University of Regina for one more season with the Rams last year.
The Stamps flirted with converting him to slot receiver – he was mostly a running back at university – at training camp this season, but even if that had worked out the team isn’t exactly short on Canadian receiving talent
The Stamps won’t be bringing every player they’ve got in camp to Vancouver for Friday’s game, but it sounds like it’s going to be a packed plane for the flight to the coast … It sure looks like the Stamps will be going with Ucambre Williams at centre – where he played last year – and potentially Nila Kasitati at right tackle, at least for now. That wasn’t the plan on Day 1 of camp, but the season-ending injury to right guard Brad Erdos has forced them to change things up … The Cochrane and Area Humane Society brought a bunch of puppies for the players to have some fun with after practice, and we can assure you that nobody in the media would complain if that happened every day.