When the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football team takes the field for the 2018 season on September 1, Damian Jackson will be in uniform on the sidelines
When the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football team takes the field for the 2018 season on September 1, defensive lineman Damian Jackson will be in uniform on the sidelines.
But Jackson is no ordinary late-teens-to-early-twenties recruit.
He is a 25-year-old man with no college football experience on his resume.
Before making the team last year as a walk-on, Jackson served in the elite Navy SEAL unit, where he became an expert marksman and explosives handler while deployed in Yemen and Southeast Asia.
A profile of Jackson was done by Bleacher Report.
After completing his military service, Jackson, a native of Las Vegas, decided to go for his dream of one day playing in the National Football League.
That led him to Nebraska, one of the elite college football programs in the country.
This year, he is hoping to see meaningful playing time for the Cornhuskers.
By the time he’ll play his first snap in a real game, he will be 26 years old.
‘I know it may sound crazy,’ Jackson told Bleacher Report.
After completing his military service, Jackson, a native of Las Vegas, decided to go for his dream of one day playing in the National Football League
‘But that’s why I’m here. I gave up everything I had – a good-paying job, my house and my car – to come here.
‘Once I have a goal in mind, I put everything toward it. I put all my resources into making it happen.’
Jackson has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
After graduating high school in 2010, he enlisted in the Navy, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Adam.
Not wanting to be outdone by his sibling, Damian decided he would take on the most challenging unit in the military.
To gain entry into the SEALs, he endured what is considered to be one of the most grueling training regimens in all the world – BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL).
Enlistees who want to join the Navy SEALs must pass a six-month series of tests that tests one’s physical, mental, and emotional stamina.
At one point during his training, Jackson became so dehydrated and low on electrolytes that his body locked up and was unable to move.
Jackson also passed out after he spent a long time scuba diving.
‘It’s a fun ride,’ he said of his time in BUD/S.
‘Maybe I was just too dumb to quit.’
Adam Jackson said of his brother’s successful entry into the SEALs: ‘It’s the hardest f***ing thing you can possibly do, and he did it with the best attitude.
‘Damian will go 10 times harder than your breaking point, and he has that mental attitude for everything.’
One of Damian Jackson’s comrades in the SEALs who was with him during BUD/S training said he was amazed at how he handled the rigors and stresses of exercises.
‘He’s just a rare mix of innate talent combined with indomitable drive, and it kind of marries into this rare person,’ said the friend.
‘He’s a one-in-a-100 million kind of guy and shined in every single dimension of this job.’
That led him to Nebraska, one of the elite college football programs in the country. This year, he is hoping to see meaningful playing time for the Cornhuskers. He is seen above leading his team out onto the field with an American flag in his hand before a game in 2017
Jackson would spend a total of six years in the Navy, which is the minimum requirement for anyone who enlists with the SEALs.
During his deployments to Yemen and Southeast Asia, he described himself as ‘the guy with all the explosives.’
A few years ago, Jackson, while still a SEAL, met with Mike Riley in his office.
At the time, Riley was the head coach of the Cornhuskers.
When Jackson told Riley he intended to play college football at Nebraska, the coach politely nodded.
‘It sounded great right in the moment,’ Riley said.
‘But you had a suspicion you might never hear about it again. What were the odds of this ever really coming to fruition?’
Jackson sent out letters to every top 25 college football program in the country.
None of them said he would be welcome on their team
So Jackson took a leap of faith. He applied to Nebraska as a non-scholarship student, where he would try to earn a spot on the team in tryouts.
He thought that was his only chance to play Division I football.
‘My plan was to go to school, and if I didn’t get accepted to the football team, I was going to go somewhere else,’ Jackson said.
‘I was going to drop down to a junior college if I had to, but I wanted to see if I could make it at a Division I program first.’
When Jackson arrived on campus in Lincoln, he bumped into Riley, who invited him for a tryout with other walk-ons.
‘We as a staff also wanted to give this specific individual a chance,’ Riley says.
‘Considering his past, what he’s done for our country and what he represents, it was only right.’
Jackson was an expert marksman and explosives handler during his time in the Navy SEALs. The stock image above shows silhouettes of a Navy SEAL team in the field
Having never played football in his life, Jackson needed to learn defensive positions from scratch.
He needed months to study playbooks and to get acquainted with defensive schemes, charts, and graphs.
Jackson has also made an impact on his teammates, who say they were amazed at his limitless work ethic.
This year, the Cornhuskers have a new coach – Scott Frost.
Frost says that Jackson still has a long way to go before he can take the field and there is no guarantee that the former SEAL will see game action this season.
But nobody questions his value to the team.
‘I hope he plays a lot, and we’ll let those pieces fall where they may,’ Frost says.
‘But I know how valuable he’s going to be regardless of how many snaps he gets. I love having him on this team.’