From Immokalee to the Super Bowl; J.C. Jackson’s Climb
“You knew he was going to be special one day,” That’s what Rich Dombroski said, who saw something special in J.C. Jackson the moment he took the Immokalee High School Football field.
“From day one, J.C. was probably the most physical defensive back that I’ve ever been around,” Dombroski said. “And coupled with his speed and athleticism, you kind of suspected this kid could do something great.”
Dombroski coached Jackson at IHS in 2013, at which time the Indians football senior became a four star recruit and chose the University of Florida. He was chasing an NFL dream.
“All the kids at Immokalee do because of Edgerrin James, the first great player to come out of IHS,” Dombroski said.
Jackson’s ride wasn’t a smooth one though. In his first year in a Florida Gators uniform, he injured his shoulder and was red-shirted. He’d never take the UF football field again, but that’s because Jackson was arrested for armed robbery in 2015.
“But knowing J.C. and what motivated J.C., J.C.’s dream of playing in the NFL one day, I knew it was going to take more than that to stop him,” Dombrowski said. “There was no quit in J.C. J.C. was gonna keep fighting until he got to where he needed to be.”
Jackson was found not guilty on all charges, but his time with the SEC program was over. He would make a stop at Riverside City, a Junior College in California then work his way back to the University of Maryland.
“His family was there to support him and remind him this is the second opportunity and you don’t get second opportunities often,” Rodelin Anthony said.
Anthony now leads Immokalee HS Football, where he see’s Jackson’s legacy lead up-and-coming athletes by example.
“It sends a positive message and it shows them, ‘Hey keep fighting; keep going down that road of success,'” Anthony said. “Every bump is an opportunity to land a great story and ultimately make you a better person and a stronger athlete.”
After a couple years with the University of Maryland, Jackson declared for the NFL draft in 2018. He wasn’t drafted, but he wasn’t giving up. Before the year was through, he was signed as an undrafted free agent for the New England Patriots.
“I’m not surprised at all that he made the roster,” Dombrowski said. “Knowing Bill Belichick and knowing the way he brings guys in, he saw something special in J.C.”
By week 13, Belichick gave Jackson the starting spot on the Patriots. In his rookie season as a Patriots cornerback, Jackson already has 3 interceptions and has become a massive force for the Patriots defense.
This weekend, in his first year in the NFL, Jerald Christopher “J.C.” Jackson, the pride of Immokalee, is starting in a Super Bowl.
His journey there was one of overcoming obstacles and adversity and sends a message to his football followers and community in Southwest Florida.
“Keep fighting for what you believe in,” Dombrowski said, “That’s what J.C. Jackson did, and he’s playing in the Super Bowl.”
Watch Immokalee’s own J.C. Jackson in Super Bowl LIII on WINK.