Keith Jackson honored for impact at OU, work with at-risk youth
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 7:02 AM
Keith Jackson will be presented one of the NCAA's most prestigious awards with a close friend by his side.
Jackson first met Barry Switzer in the early 1980s when the Oklahoma coach was recruiting the Little Rock (Ark.) Parkview High School star.
On Friday night, Switzer will watch the two-time All-American tight end be honored with the NCAA's Silver Anniversary Award, which recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th year following completion of their college careers.
Jackson says the friendships he created at OU mean just as much as the 42-5-1 record the Sooners registered during his playing career.
"Coach Switzer went to the Lombardi Award presentation with me and was there with me side-by-side knowing I didn't have a chance to win it (as a tight end)," said Jackson, who played at OU between 1984-87. "This Friday, he'll be sitting right next to me 25 years later.
"Those are special relationships that you know are better than the (win-loss) record."
Jackson is only the second OU player to earn the Silver Anniversary honor, joining the late Lee Roy Selmon.
"It's an honor to just have been named to the same award as Lee Roy Selmon," Jackson said. "People in Oklahoma and Tampa realized what type of person he was."
Jackson was a two-time All-American and won a national championship at OU. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
The 47-year-old spent nine seasons in the NFL. The 13th overall pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1988 NFL draft, he also played for the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers. The six-time All-Pro tight end helped the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI in his final pro game.
Part of the criteria for the Silver Anniversary Award requires recipients to have achieved personal distinction since graduation. Jackson, who has been implanted in the state of Arkansas much of his life, founded a nonprofit organization in Little Rock that provides "high-risk" students an opportunity to have success in high school and beyond.
Jackson also has spent the past dozen years as the radio analyst for Arkansas Razorbacks' games. In 1999, he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
One question has continued to follow him since he graduated from high school and was asked by someone as recently as Wednesday - why did he leave the state to play football at Oklahoma?
"I told him '42-5-1,' " said Jackson, laughing. "That's an incredible record. We competed for national championships. It was a great run."
Jackson has created a tight bond with the community where he grew up. Nearly every afternoon, Jackson can be found at the D.K. Reynolds Facility, which houses P.A.R.K. (Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids). The organization focuses on encouraging youth to excel academically.
"While Keith owns a prominent place in OU history for his athletic accomplishments, the work his foundation has done is truly remarkable, helping countless youth overcome daily obstacles in pursuing a high school education," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. "Keith believes his opportunities began with his collegiate experience at OU, and he is intent on sharing that with teenagers in his hometown who are willing to make a similar commitment to education."
Added Jackson: "At Oklahoma, it wasn't just the competitiveness of sports, but the competitiveness of the classroom that built you into something special. I'm trying to help kids do the same I did, to have the tenacity and want-to to be successful academically.
"I shake hands with the kids and welcome them in here each day ... Some people say I just place my name with the program. My office is here. They see me."
Jackson is a member of many sports halls of fame, has championship trophies and major awards. But P.A.R.K. is home.
"This is my passion and purpose for being born," he said.
Graduation: 1987, Oklahoma
College career: A four-year letter winner at OU (1984-87), Jackson was a two-time All-American. He averaged 28.8 yards per catch as a junior and helped lead OU to a national championship as a senior. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
NFL career: The 13th overall pick of the 1988 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, he was a six-team Pro Bowl selection during his nine-year NFL career, which was capped by his final game when he was on the Green Bay Packers' championship team in Super Bowl XXXI.
What he does now: Jackson founded P.A.R.K. (Positive Atmosphere Reach Kids) in 1993, a nonprofit organization in Little Rock that provides high-risk students an opportunity to further education past high school.
Original Print Headline: Silver Sooner
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
OU's Keith Jackson catches a touchdown pass during a Bedlam game in 1984. Tulsa World file; photo illustration
Tulsa World file