Sleep On Utah Football’s Ja’Quinden Jackson At Your Own Peril

Jun 13, 2023, 9:00 AM | Updated: 1:39 pm


Ja'Quinden Jackson #3 of the Utah Utes celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second quarter in the 2023 Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 02, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football’s Ja’Quinden Jackson may have started 2022 as the third string quarterback, but he ended it as a starter at running back making him someone not to sleep on in 2023.

Former Penn State and UMass tight end and current ESPN College Football Analyst Adam Breneman recently featured Jackson in his “Sleepers With AB” segment on Twitter and had nothing but positive things to say about the converted running back.

Jackson moved over to running back before the Utes took on Arizona State in 2022 after a season-ending injury to Chris Curry and uncertainty surrounding Tavion Thomas’ availability week to week. There was early confidence Jackson may have found his spot from the staff that grew with every snap the talented athlete took to finish out the season.

How Did Ja’Quinden Jackson Fare In 2022?

Jackson put together a sneaky good season in 2022 despite only playing running back for 10 of Utah’s 14 total games and having to get reacquainted with the position after not playing it since about eighth grade.

The talented athlete finished the year with 78 carries for 531 yards and nine touchdowns. Jackson averaged 6.8 yards per carry with a long of 66 against Colorado. He also added one reception for eight yards.

Arguably, Jackson’s best game of the year came against USC in the Pac-12 Championship game where he accounted for 13 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns as the Utes clinched their second straight Pac-12 Title.

Jackson, 22 Forever

On top of showing he has what it takes to be a fantastic college running back and very likely a good NFL running back, Jackson may have one of the best stories in all of sports at the moment making him an easy guy to cheer for.

Jackson came to the Utes in 2021 after spending one season at Texas in 2020.

Why Utah?

Jackson grew up with the Utes’ star running back at the time, Ty Jordan who just had a breakout season and had told Jackson Utah was a great place to be if he needed a fresh start. Jackson committed to the Utes on December 20, 2020, with the hopes of playing with his childhood friend once more.

Unfortunately, five days later on Christmas Day, Jordan tragically died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. Despite his connection no longer being with the Utes, Jackson still came to Salt Lake and quickly connected with cornerback Aaron Lowe who also grew up with Jordan.

Almost nine months to the day later, Lowe was murdered at a house party after Utah football’s game against Washington State on September 25, 2021. Naturally, losing a second connection to his new home left Jackson a little lost in his first season with Utah.

Fast forward to last season when Jackson was awarded the second 22 Forever Memorial Scholarship in honor of his two friends. Jackson moved to running back a few months later- the position that Jordan played and made his debut at his new spot on the one-year anniversary of Lowe’s death. Quite the way to carry on your friends’ legacy through your own.


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If that wasn’t enough to convince you there is maybe something a little extra special about Jackson and his rise in college football, last season Jackson had an identical touchdown run to Jordan that blew people’s minds. Same yardage, same venue, same team, almost exactly two years apart.

It’s also worth noting that Breneman’s Tweet about not sleeping on Jackson was posted at 8:22 p.m. Both Jordan and Lowe wore the number 22 which has since been retired.


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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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Sleep On Utah Football’s Ja’Quinden Jackson At Your Own Peril