Ja’Quinden Jackson Finding New Life In Utah’s Running Back Room
Apr 8, 2023, 2:27 PM
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football has been on a major healing journey the past two seasons with running back Ja’Quinden Jackson directly in the middle of it.
The shocking and tragic losses of running back Ty Jordan and cornerback Aaron Lowe rocked the Utah Athletics family to its core. While a lot of people were directly affected for one reason or another, Jackson was particularly impacted as Jordan was the reason for his transfer to the Utes from Texas in 2020, and Lowe became Jackson’s shoulder to lean on after Jordan’s passing until his murder in September of 2021.
Recently, Utah football relaunched their “Why U Play” series starting with Jackson who talked about his background, connections to Jordan, and Lowe, and finding new life in Utah’s running back room.
“I have to remind myself every day that somebody is counting on me…you gotta work harder, dig deeper, because you have people back home."@leg3ndaryjaay | #WhyUPlay pic.twitter.com/mBDdNCn9f2
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) April 7, 2023
“Being Out There, Running Around, Having Fun Again Just Lifted A Lot Of Weight Off My Shoulders”
The 22 Forever scholarship recipient has been very candid in the past about how Jordan and Lowe’s deaths took the wind out of his sails for the first year or so he was at Utah. Jackson has also talked about how a call-up to the running back room in the middle of last season after coming in as a quarterback helped him find joy in the game again.
“I found my joy again,” Jackson said after he made his debut at running back against ASU in 2022. “I’m just going to leave it at that. I found my joy again. I actually had fun just being out there playing again. I found my joy again. I’m loving it.”
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As spring ball kicked off a few weeks back, Jackson reiterated how happy he continues to be with his move to running back, and how from top to bottom, he feels like he’s with a good group of guys while getting the support he needs.
“Jaylon Glover, Chris Curry- basically the whole running back room plus the G.A.s and coaches,” Jackson said. “We all are a family. Outside of football, we still hang out. That group right there is one of a kind.”
Jackson’s position coach, legendary Ute, Quinton Ganther feels similarly about his quarterback-turned-running back, noting how special it is to see him re-love the game after so much heartbreak- something Ganther says the two have really bonded over.
“It’s good,” Ganther said. “God doesn’t make mistakes. You know, he was feeling down and out- we’ve all been there. I’ve thought about if I wanted to continue coaching and sometimes God puts people in your life to assure you, you are doing the right thing. That was one thing me and Ja’Quinden had a good connection immediately because we share some of the same backgrounds, some of the same thoughts on things like that. We continue to be here for each other as far as the group as well. We all push each other and lean on each other because life gets hard.”
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Playing about half of last year at running back while still needing to be engaged at quarterback just in case, Jackson accumulated 78 carries for 531 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging about 6.8 yards per carry. In 2023 it is full steam ahead for Jackson at running back, and Ganther believes it will make a big difference for his rising star.
“He is progressing at a rapid pace,” Ganther said. “He’s picking things up, starting to understand things. It was good to see his growth over the season because he was switched midway and every week he just kept getting better, and better, and better. This is going to be a big spring for him because now he gets to come into his own. Relax and hone in on the position. He doesn’t have a million things he has to think of because even last year when he switched over to the running back position, he was still a third or fourth string emergency quarterback. He was still thinking about all of those things and now he can just hone in on becoming the best running back he can be.”
Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports
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