Emotional day for Jackson

  • By Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, December 12, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

MINNEAPOLIS – After a difficult Saturday night in which he had to say a final good-bye to his father, Darrell Jackson got the phone call he was expecting early Sunday morning.

His 68-year-old father, Joe, had lost his battle with cancer.

The call came in just after 6 a.m. Central time, and Jackson knew it would come sooner or later.

Less than six hours later, Jackson was doing what his father would have wanted. He was out playing an NFL game for the Seattle Seahawks, and playing it very well.

“I have to just press on,” said Jackson, who caught 10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown Sunday, just a few hours after the death of his father. “I had been preparing myself for a long time. We both knew. He’s probably just happy that I sucked it up and got the job done for my teammates and my family, and that I put a smile on my mother’s face to ease her pain right now.”

Jackson didn’t need to be inspired by his father’s memory, not with the Seahawks desperate to bounce back from a disappointing loss and clinging to a piece of the playoff puzzle. Jackson’s motivation Sunday came from a locker room of teammates who needed 100 percent from Seattle’s star receiver if the Seahawks were going to knock off the Minnesota Vikings and stay atop the NFC West.

“I wanted to cowboy up, suck it up, and try to get it done,” Jackson said. “As far as coming out and playing, you just have to hold your emotions down on and off the field. It’s easier on the field than off the field. When I get off the field, that’s when I start thinking about it.”

Jackson’s teammates supported his decision and couldn’t have imagined what Sunday’s game would have looked like without him. The 26-year-old receiver matched his career high for receptions and put up the third-highest total of receiving yards he’s ever had in a game.

“The way he came out and played today, it was just an honor to be a part of it,” teammate Jerry Rice said. “I lost my dad (Joe Nathan Rice Sr., in February), and I know exactly what that feels like. It’s hard when you lose somebody that close. I’m sure his dad wanted him to come out here and play today. He put on a show, he really did.”

If there were any questions about how Jackson would perform Sunday, he answered them early. He caught passes on Seattle’s first two offensive plays, then scored the go-ahead touchdown near the end of the first half.

Perhaps the most important catch of all came on the Seahawks’ last drive of the game, when he pulled in a 37-yard reception on third-and-7 with 1:48 left in the game.

Although the Vikings eventually got the ball back, Jackson’s conversion helped take a full minute off the clock.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck called it “the biggest play … in the game.”

“It’s a very aggressive play call by coach (Mike) Holmgren,” Hasselbeck said, “and (Jackson) made the play.”

Like teammates throughout the Seattle locker room Sunday, Hasselbeck was impressed with the way Jackson played on the day he got the worst news of his young life.

“It had to be tremendously hard for him,” Hasselbeck said. “I couldn’t even put myself in his shoes. I just can’t imagine. For him to come in – he didn’t even practice one time this week, and with all the distractions and all that he’s going through – I’m just really proud of him.”

A cold forced Jackson to miss the first two days of practice last week, then he flew home on Friday to be with his ailing father in Florida. Despite not taking part in a single practice, he was ready on game day.

“I’ve seen a lot of players go through this, like Brett Favre and so on,” Jackson said. “So I get a little inspiration from them and try to get it done.”

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