Jackson makes speedy return following back surgery

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Arkansas offensive lineman Colton Jackson blocks Mississippi State J.T. Gray during a game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas offensive lineman Colton Jackson blocks Mississippi State J.T. Gray during a game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas offensive lineman Colton Jackson was hurt when he learned he may miss as many as six games in his junior season.

Jackson, a left tackle with 13 career starts, underwent back surgery in July and was the first in a long line of linemen Razorbacks coaches knew would miss time. But Jackson did not want to settle for coming back midway through the year.

So he attacked his rehab, coming into the football facilities 2-3 times per day, and sometimes on weekends, to work with head athletic trainer Dave Polanski and strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll.

“I didn't want to take a medical redshirt, especially with that much of the season being gone and coming back Game 7, starting from there and trying to get game ready,” said Jackson, a Conway native. “I was in there every single day no matter what. And I'm fortunate my class schedule allows that, for me to be in there so much. But yeah, I didn't like that news.”

Jackson’s back began acting up in early July, he said. He then stayed away from any strenuous activity for about three weeks before seeking a doctor’s opinion. After undergoing x-rays and an MRI, he received more stunning news.

“They said based on that that it's been bad for at least like seven years,” he said, “so it was just a matter of time before it gave out. It was just a matter of time.”

The rehab consisted of focusing on his core and strengthening the muscles around his spine, Jackson said. So long as he continues to do so, he should be able to grow his role on Arkansas’ offensive line.

All of the work over the last month and a half paid off last weekend as he took the field in the Razorbacks’ loss to North Texas. Jackson said he played 23 snaps – a great first step toward getting back to his old self.

“It felt good,” said Jackson, whose 702 offensive snaps placed third on the team last season. “It’s a relief finally getting back out there playing with my boys. (Working with Polanski and Carroll) really helped me a lot to not skip a beat when I got back out there.”

Jeremy Patton, Arkansas’ senior tight end, said having Jackson back even in a limited role as he progresses toward game shape will make all the difference for Arkansas on the left side of the line.

“It’s great,” said Patton, tied for third on the team with four receptions. “He has two years of playing behind him. Earlier in the year we had guys that had not really played a whole lot of football (at Jackson’s position). Not that they’re not ready, but they have not experienced that yet. Playing at this level is tough.”

Should he enter this weekend’s game at Auburn, he will face one of the SEC’s best, most physical defensive fronts. On more than one occasion, Jackson called upon the Tigers’ size and strength from film study.

“They play, usually, straight up. They don’t do a lot of moving around, twisting, like North Texas did,” Jackson added. “They’re going to play straight up. They’re going to go man on man and make you work for it.

“They’re all pretty good. They’re good across the board, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Chad Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock saw Jackson work off a bit of rust against the Mean Green on Saturday. With time he will come into his own again and provide the Razorbacks needed depth up front.

“I think with a good week of practice and just getting back into the flow of things he's going to be just fine,” Craddock said.

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