BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
Patrick Jackson is healthier than he's been since his days at West St. John High School, and that's bad news for Western Athletic Conference football teams.
Jackson, who rushed for 854 yards his sophomore season at Louisiana Tech, gained 950 yards and scored eight times last year despite playing most of the season with a chipped bone in his right toe.
Jackson went through off-season surgery and sat out spring practice for the first time in his Tech career.
"I'm looking forward to getting back on the field," Jackson said at the recent WAC Football Preview in Salt Lake City. "I haven't felt this good since high school.
"It was very painful. I had to get shots before games sometime. I'm looking forward to being able to play without pain. The toe had been hurting for some time. It was very tough to cut off of it. There were no real (in-season) solutions."
If he stays healthy, Jackson should be a shoe-in to reach 1,000 yards this season. In a running back-rich conference, Jackson has held his own with the likes of Ian Johnson of Boise State, Nevada's Luke Lippincott and Fresno State's Ryan Mathews.
"Ian Johnson is a great running back," Jackson said. "He's great for the conference."
Derek Dooley, Tech's second-year head coach, appreciated Jackson's ability and toughness. Despite the injury, Jackson had 32 more carries than he did the previous season.
"He's such a good back," Dooley said. "He was really hobbled all year with that toe injury. We held him out of spring practice.
"He's a really hard worker. I knew Patrick because I had him in camp. He got ticked because we didn't take him (at LSU). He's a really good runner."
Jackson just smiled when told what Dooley said.
"Some of my teammates had gone there the year before," Jackson said. "When he got the job (at Tech), I told him he couldn't avoid me."
Jackson, who run a 4.48, said his vision and explosiveness are his strengths. The vision helps him pick out holes quicker, and he knows where the defenders are coming from. The explosiveness enables him to get through holes quicker, and he's extremely strong for his size and tough to bring down.
"I need to work on my blocking," Jackson said.
Besides being critical to the offense, the Tech senior is a valued member of the special teams.
In the last three years, Jackson has averaged 27, 24 and 22 yards per return. His 100-yard return against Fresno State in 2006 was the first since Eddie Brown brought one back the distance back in 1989.
THE JACKSON FILE
Hometown: Edgard, La.
Position: Running back
Year in school: Senior