Nebraska’s newest prospective walk-on football player, Ishmail Jackson, comes with a celebrity connection - Matt Damon.
Ishmail Jackson enrolled at Nebraska on Wednesday and will workout for the Nebraska staff in August.
Jackson and Damon toured the NU campus Wednesday, and the South Florida football prospect enrolled at Nebraska. He is planning to walk-on to the Husker football team as a defensive back in August.
Jackson said he was looking for something "a little different" than where he grew up in Florida, and he found it in Lincoln. He said he wanted to attend a football-rich school with a tradition for strong defensive players.
“A lot of kids go to local schools or where everybody wants them to go and they don’t really take the time to actually look at the school and see what they have to offer,” Jackson said. “When I found out that Nebraska is one of the top football programs, I thought that’d be the best fit for me. I’m a defensive player and their defensive program is outstanding. That’s how it all started.”
Jackson, a two-star as ranked by 247Sports, started considering Nebraska late in the spring and reached out to walk-on program coordinator Jeff Jamrog. The next step for the defensive back was to visit the campus, and he came away impressed.
“The campus was awesome,” he said. “Actually, as soon as I touched down in Lincoln and we pulled our car onto the freeway and you see that big stadium … that was a warm welcome. This campus, this city is so surrounded by football. That’s the type of environment I needed. Football is my life. I feel like the whole support system in this city is amazing. I had a great time.”
On the field, Jackson said he hopes to get the opportunity to help the Huskers like he did for South Broward in Hollywood, Fla.
“I’m a versatile player,” he said. “I can play multiple positions. I’m not a big guy - I’m a speed guy - but my coaches can put me anywhere and I’m going to make plays. Wherever my coaches want me, that’s where I’ll play. I feel like I can be a playmaker here.
“My high school senior year I was one of the leaders and one of the playmakers. I’m not looking to come to Nebraska and take anyone’s position, but I just want to work like everybody else and hopefully I can become a big-time player here.”
Matt Damon throws the bones with Nebraska students Lauren Larson (left) and Emily Kerl (right). Photo courtesy of Lauren Larson.
This spring Jackson spent his time working out and trying to build up his size and strength. The defender said he’s now 6-foot and 180 pounds.
It’s not official that Jackson has a spot on the team, as he’ll have a workout for the coaches at the beginning of August.
“I’m going to go in there in August and I’ll be able to get my look,” he said. “I’m going to hope for the best. It’s kind of a tryout. They can’t just put me on the team. They want to see what I have to offer. I’ll just go from there.”
Jackson’s visit caused a little excitement on Nebraska’s campus. Naturally, it didn’t hurt that his uncle – Damon married Jackson’s aunt, Luciana Bozán Barroso, in 2005 – was along for the trip. Damon attended Harvard but told Jackson that he was impressed with Nebraska’s academic support system.
“It was Matt’s first time and he was amazed,” Jackson said. “He said Nebraska had so much to offer. We went through the whole orientation process. He found out a lot of stuff he didn’t know. He was like ‘Man, I love this. It’s great. The setup here is great. They don’t want you to drop off.’ That’s the main thing he liked about it. The college is not going to just let you be out there on your own. There’s help everywhere to get the help you need.”
Damon volunteered to travel to Nebraska with Jackson to check out the school.
“He really wanted to come,” Jackson said. “My aunt couldn't go, but my uncle said he wanted to go and he really wanted to go up there and see it. That’s how he ended up coming here.”
And now that his nephew is a Husker, Damon has become a fan.
“He racked up so much Husker gear at the bookstore,” Jackson said. “He bought everything.”