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Harrison Jackson’s big day, TD reception bolster Stony Brook

Stony Brook wide receiver Harrison Jackson looks on

Stony Brook wide receiver Harrison Jackson looks on against Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship at LaValle Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Harrison Jackson was in a tough spot last season. After tearing the ACL in his left knee for a third time, the Stony Brook wide receiver had many around him wondering whether he would return to play football.

Jackson didn’t wonder. For him, there wasn’t even a question. He returned, played well and on Saturday he was outstanding. He had a career-high 122 yards on three catches, with a 76-yard fourth-quarter touchdown reception from Joe Carbone in Stony Brook’s 59-29 victory over Lehigh in the FCS playoffs.

“A lot of times people say ‘Why do you come back,’ but unless you play football, most people don’t understand,” Jackson said. “The culture . . . the team, it’s something you can’t buy. That’s what motivates me, my teammates.”

Jackson passes all credit for his performance in Saturday’s win to his teammates. Jackson was coming off a previous career-high with 100 receiving yards in the final game of the regular season against Maine.

“When you have a good game like last week, it’s hard to practice because you think you’ve arrived,” Jackson said. “That’s something I’ve been focusing on this past week, not thinking I’ve arrived because this game is not guaranteed.”

The endless tribulations of football put Jackson in the position he was in the past two games. Ray Bolden, the Seawolves’ top receiver, was out due to an ankle injury and Jackson was needed to play a larger role.

“He’s the lead guy for us now. He was always capable of being the lead guy,” coach Chuck Priore said. “The thing I’m proud of is (Jackson) is getting his MBA. He made a decision that he is going to give this football thing a try but importantly . . . he is accomplishing that.”

Jackson, one of two graduate players on the team, transferred to Stony Brook from Boston College to pursue a degree in healthcare management. Jackson credits fellow Boston College transfers and teammates Jordan Gowins and Sherman Alston Jr. and coaches in helping him make his decision to attend grad school at Stony Brook.

“This is an opportunity for me to get my Masters and still play the game I love,” Jackson said. “Yes, it’s a challenge, but if you put your mind to it you can do anything. When it’s football, I focus on football. When it’s school, I focus on school.”

For now the focus is No. 1-ranked James Madison, the Seawolves opponent in the second-round of the playoffs this coming Saturday. Jackson said he’s ready to bring plenty of “heart, effort and physicality” all the while enjoying a trip to his home state. He’s a native of Round Hill, Virginia.

“I’m excited to go down south,” Jackson said. “I live an hour away from there so I’m going back home down to Virginia to put on a show and play the most physical and dominate football we can play.”

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