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Redblacks defensive lineman Darius Jackson plays for little brother

When Darius Jackson arrives at TD Place for Ottawa Redblacks practice each day, inside a book bag he brings with him is an obituary — his little brother Alex died of cancer four years ago.

On game days, he’s got a sleeve he puts on his arm — on it are the names of his brother and his grandfather, Rickie McConico. It helps drive Jackson, who was signed by the Redblacks July 22. He played his first CFL regular-season game Saturday against the Toronto Argos, making four tackles and getting a quarterback sack.

Jackson was away at school — Jacksonville State — when he found out his little brother had cancer.

“I wasn’t always around,” said Jackson. “I was thinking I didn’t get much time with him because I’d gone off to school. He just loved life. I could tell it was wearing him down, but he was like, ‘I’ll be here for y’all as long as I can.

“The whole family took it hard. I got a call to come and say my last words to him. He really couldn’t talk. He was looking at me, shaking my hand. I told him I was going to ball for him, live my life for him.”

Then there was Jackson’s grandfather, a mechanic.

“He died heading into my freshman year,” said Jackson, who’s from Alabama. “We were tight. He was always working on cars, as a kid I’d watch him. He’d get his hands dirty, he was real good at what he did.”

Jackson wants to be a professional football player. As a college player, he was outstanding — a Defensive Player of the Year. He got an NFL look from the Jacksonville Jaguars, then got a workout with the Oakland Raiders. After being released, he took a job working on the assembly line at a Mercedes-Benz plant. When the Edmonton Eskimos called to offer him an opportunity, he jumped all over it. After the Eskimos released him in early July, the Redblacks called two weeks later.

“There are tough times when you know you can ball, when you know you what it takes, but it’s just not your turn,” said the 24-year-old Jackson, who’s 6-foot-3, 241 lbs. “I’ve been on the practice squad. People tell me, ‘Be patient, you’ve got what it takes.’ I tried to stick to the course and know my time was coming. Life has its turns so you just roll with the punches.

“I’ve been ready to ball since I got here. This is what I love to do, I’ve been playing football since I was very young. It’s my passion and if I can get paid to do it … I’m in. I have to feed my daughter — this is paying the bills.”

Asked about Jackson, Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said: “I think he’s got great upside. He’s a guy that can be a difference-maker. This all has to be shown over weeks and being able to show improvement, but the guy’s explosive and has a natural feel for the game.”

With every day for Jackson, there’s a purpose — a brother and a grandfather never far from his thoughts.

“We’re living, we’re blessed to be here,” he said. “Damn, life’s too short. So now I live my life to the fullest for them.”

THE COACH SAYS: It’s full steam ahead for the Redblacks, who have moved on from worrying about a disappointing 46-17 loss to the Toronto Argos Saturday and leave for Vancouver late Wednesday afternoon. They play the B.C. Lions Friday night.

“We’ve dissected that (Toronto) game, but we’ve had to put it to bed, move on and get ready for an important game in Vancouver,” said Campbell following Tuesday’s practice at TD Place. “Toronto and B.C. are good teams. I know what their records are (the Lions have just one win, while the Argos have two) — I get that — but they play people tough. We’re going to have to play really well to beat them.”

With a 3-8 record, the Redblacks can’t afford to come up short again in B.C. They also play the Lions in Ottawa a week later.

SECOND AND LONG: Injured DB Antoine Pruneau was on the sideline Tuesday working out on one of the bicycle equipment machines — with a huge walking boot on. It’s possible he could return late in the season … In his absence, the Redblacks could have each of Anthony Cioffi, Randall Evans and Justin Howell take safety reps. Asked about Howell, Campbell said: “He’s done really well for a guy who’s only been in this league for a year and a half. He keeps getting better, he does a great job on defence and special teams. As long as that guy stays healthy, he could play in this league for awhile, for sure.” … Kaye Vaughan will be added to the Wall of Honour at TD Place Sept. 21 as part of the Redblack’s Heritage Day. Kaye becomes the 12th former CFL Ottawa player on the Wall of Honour. He joins six former teammates Russ Jackson, Ron Stewart, Whit Tucker, the late Bruno Bitkowski, the late Bobby Simpson and the late Moe Racine. The most recent player added was Henry Burris. Others on the Wall are the late Tony Golab, the late Jim Coode, Tony Gabriel and Gerry Organ.

THE END AROUND: The Redblacks have hit a new low in the CFL’s weekly Nissan Titan Power Rankings. On a string of eight losses in their last nine games, the Redblacks (with a 3-8 record) have sunk to ninth (and last) in the rankings, behind the 1-10 B.C. Lions and 2-9 Toronto Argos. The highest Ottawa has been ranked all season was from Weeks 3-5 when it was in fifth spot … It looks like offensive lineman Stephane Nembot will be out of the lineup again this week — the Redblacks need to have seven Canadian starters so they may go with five Canadian offensive linemen again … Running back John Crockett isn’t ready to go yet, so it looks like Mossis Madu will start again this week … Receiver Seth Coate, who has been on the six-game injured list since the beginning of the season, probably won’t be back in 2019 … The Redblacks have signed DL Cam Walker, a former Guelph Gryphon. After four seasons with the Argos, he was added, then released, by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats earlier this season.


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Source: torontosun.com