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The Butler Did It: Jackson walks his own path

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His father, Terrance, a third-generation coal miner’s son who has been trying to get a mine of his own started, declared bankruptcy in November and has been out of work since Drew was a highly touted sophomore in high school.

“Every Big East weekend everyone has their families here and it’s something I never had, but it was something I knew I had to deal with coming up,” Jackson said. “I’ve handled it well and I’ve sort of (latched on) to some of my roommates’ families and they’ve treated me well.”

Jackson has been adopted by the Orsogna, the DeRosa and the Martin families.

“You do feel bad. The family is supportive, but Drew has done a lot on his own. He’s kind of like an independent guy,” said St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer. “It’s tough when you see other people’s parents here. As a parent myself I feel for him.”

Even after Terrance Jackson’s boss was killed in a helicopter crash and the mine’s new management let him go, Drew Jackson’s priorities were different. He was a can’t-miss pro prospect and took what the local scouts were telling him to heart. And when he was selected by the Atlanta Braves with the last pick of the 1999 draft, Jackson didn’t sign. He thought he could do better in a couple of years.

At the time Jackson saw school as more of a vehicle to get him more exposure. So following a stint at Potomac Junior College, Jackson accepted St. John’s assistant coach Mike Hampton’s offer to play at the school. Of course, there were a few differences between Morgantown and Jamaica.

“Driving around every day and not seeing trees and wildlife” was the biggest adjustment, Jackson said. “There’s buildings everywhere and the weather’s a little harsher up here, but other than that there weren’t too many differences and I adjusted.”

Jackson’s biggest adjustment, though, has been mentally. Because of a rash of injuries, including a broken hand just four games into this season, he is no longer a can’t-miss prospect. He isn’t even a long shot for next month’s draft.

After being one of Morgantown’s top players a few years ago, Jackson now plays sparingly for the Red Storm, which is attempting to make the Big East tournament for the first time since 1999. And while he has never made the trip to Queens to see his son play, Terrance Jackson did get to watch Drew in his homecoming trip to Morgantown a few weeks ago.

Drew didn’t start, but Terrance stayed. He stayed through an hour-and-a-half rain delay, hoping to simply catch a glimpse of his son. He did, and Drew struck out in the ninth inning. But that mattered little to Terrance Jackson, who said he just wanted to give his son a hug and a kiss.

“I met his father for the first time in West Virginia and he was very thankful to us, thankful to the program,” Blankmeyer said. “He said he was sorry Drew couldn’t perform on a better level for us, but he does appreciate what St. John’s has done in terms of getting him an education.”

It had been difficult to accept at first, but Jackson has come to terms with the end of his baseball career. “Back when I was a professional prospect my head was more with the baseball aspect of it rather than school. I’m a much more mature player now,” he said.

“As long as the team’s doing well, then everyone’s happy. It’s good to see the young guys have a shot to do great things and chase their dreams.”

While he once dreamed of playing in the majors, at one of his final home games last Thursday, Jackson looked forward to Sunday’s graduation day. He earned a degree in sports management, the first of the Jackson children to get a college degree.

“In truth, maybe 1 or 2 percent of baseball players get to play at the Division I level so I’ve been fortunate there. I’ve been fortunate to have the ability to get drafted and be a prospect but things have changed,” Jackson said.

“That wasn’t my path and now I’m walking the other path. I’m going to get the degree and see where that takes me.”

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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