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Today is August 13, 2022

Coming Home: Super Bowl winner leads Horn Lake program

“I made em hurl!”
Brandon Jackson, Horn Lake High School’s new head football coach, was running conditioning drills with his team on the first day of summer practice.

By Steven Ward

Coming Home: Super Bowl winner leads Horn Lake program

Jackson wasn’t laughing or even smiling. But he was enthusiastic and loud while he yelled at the high school students as they ran up and down the practice field.

“I’m not training you to be high school athletes; I’m training you to be college athletes,” Jackson shouted  to the students.  

The team had breakfast together before heading outside to run.

Some of that breakfast later wound up in a few little piles on the field.  

Jackson’s first day of summer football practice at Horn Lake High School in 2022 marked a historic milestone.

Jackson is the school’s first black head football coach.

He also won a Super Bowl in 2011 when he was a  running back for the Green Bay Packers.

It was hard to tell if the boys were in awe of their new coach on the first morning of summer practice. 

How can someone be in awe of anything when  they are trying to catch their breath and keep their breakfast down?

 

Horn Lake Hero

Jackson’s Horn Lake High School retired football jersey is  encased in a frame that hangs on a school wall.

Jackson, 36, grew up in Chicago, but later moved to Mississippi with his family and landed in Horn Lake.

“Growing up in Chicago and coming to Horn Lake was a cultural adjustment for myself and my family. Playing football at Horn Lake High School was one of the greatest experiences because it gave me the opportunity to play on the next level, college football,” Jackson said.

Mentorship plays a key role in a young man’s life, Jackson said. He knows firsthand from his experiences in Horn Lake.

“Coach Craig Casey (one of Jackson’s former high school football coaches) was a great mentor. He inspired me throughout middle school and during my high school years. He taught me about never giving up and how to overcome onerous situations. Outside of high school, my biggest inspiration is my brother Ben Jackson. He never missed any of my accomplishments throughout my life with football. He’s my greatest support and always the counselor I needed,” Jackson said.

When asked why he wanted to be Horn Lake High School’s head football coach, Jackson said he wanted to “change young men’s lives.”

“Growing up in Horn Lake, I always wondered what if? What  if I had a Super Bowl champion for a coach, how much more would I have accomplished,” he said.

Jackson has made history as the school’s first black head  football coach, something the married father of three takes  very seriously.

“It is an honor and privilege to be the first African American head coach at Horn Lake High School, and the second in the history of Desoto County. Growing up, my father was the first African American to play the sport of basketball at Arkansas College.  He left me a part of his legacy and history,” Jackson said.

“As a community I believe young, rising African American men need to see a familiar image to help them become successful. This is the experience of  a lifetime, and I’m here to serve my  community proudly.”

Horn Lake High School Principal Nick Toungett, who is white, said representation matters, but he didn’t hire Jackson because he was black.

“I believe it is important to have a staff population that represents the student population that they serve. When screening candidates, I did not have a goal to hire the school’s first black head football coach. My goal was to fill the position with the candidate that had the best chance to grow our young men on and off the field and win at everything,” Toungett said.   

“I felt like Brandon Jackson was that guy. However, I am  extremely excited that the guy we chose is from Horn Lake, is  a Super Bowl champion, and is the first black head football coach at Horn Lake.”

 

Stats

When he was a student athlete at Horn Lake, Jackson was twice named a Class 5A offensive player of the year. He was recruited by the University of Nebraska where he scored 14 touchdowns and ran for 1,431 yards on 291 carries.

Jackson was selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers where he later won Super Bowl XLV in 2011 against the Pittsburg Steelers.

“Winning the Super Bowl was a very surreal situation. Growing up, I would watch every Super Bowl throughout the years, hoping that it would be me one day,” Jackson said. 

In July 2011, Jackson was signed by the Cleveland Browns where he finished out his pro career.

Jackson has coached at the college level, including stops at Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State.

Before he took the Horn Lake job — his first as a head coach — he was a defensive coordinator at Olive Branch  High School.

 

The Right Guy

Toungett said he loves Jackson’s enthusiasm and  passion for the community.

“He has brought a tremendous amount of energy and excitement to our program.  The main three things about his personality that grabbed my attention was his energy, his passion, and his humbleness. Coach Jackson has accomplished great things as a player and a coach yet remains humble and grounded. You don’t always find this when dealing with people that have accomplished as much as he has,” Toungett said.

The principal said the most important trait he was looking for in a coach was someone who could lead the students on and off the field. 

“Someone who will inspire them to be the best that they can be at everything they do, while holding them accountable along the way,” Toungett said.

 

‘Taking them back to my grind’

Back out on the practice field, Jackson and his assistant coaches kept asking the students if they “want it?”

“If not, just go home,” Jackson yelled.

There were other phrases Jackson shouted out to his students as the drills continued.

“Get up! You want it? Take it! Fight!”

“Keep up or get passed up!”

 “My goal for these kids is to take them back to my grind. This is what I did. I want to show them how to make it,” Jackson said during a break.

“This team is going to be the fastest and most disciplined team  in Mississippi. Even our managers are going to be fast,” Jackson  said smiling.

Later, after practice, Jackson put it a different way.

“Understanding where I have been in life and where these young men want to go is part of the journey. I want our young men to  be student athletes first. That means the classroom will always  come first and football second. Having success off the field is of  the upmost importance.”

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