Vintage Illini

Vintage Illini

Catching up with Bobby Jackson.

Not only did Jackson get to play Big Ten football, but he did it with his brother (Marc) on the team and his dad (Robert) on the coaching staff. Thank former Illinois coach Lou Tepper for getting the ball rolling, recruiting Bobby Jackson from Corvallis, Ore. Jackson's Illinois career included teams that were 0-11 and 10-2. One of the biggest moments of his career came at West Lafayette, Ind.

N-G: What do you remember about playing Purdue in 2001?

BJ: I remember Kurt Kittner threw four interceptions. But it didn't matter what happened. We were going to win the game.

N-G: You were down 13-0 in that game. Were you ever worried?

BJ: No. At halftime, actually, it was pretty calm. In the locker room, I remember the offense talking and Coach (Ron) Turner came in, and I said, "We'll get this. Don't worry about it." I stayed calm the whole time. It was pretty funny. Now that I think about it, I don't know that I should have been.

N-G: Did that game start the team thinking about winning the Big Ten?

BJ: I didn't think that far ahead. I just took it week by week. It's too hard. How do you overlook Penn State, Ohio State?

N-G: You had an 83-yard interception return for a touchdown. Talk about the play.

BJ: At halftime, Muhammad Abdullah and I had to get IVs. I told Coach Turner one of us would provide a spark. They were driving the ball. Their tight end, Tim Stratton, they put me on him. The quarterback (Brandon Hance) threw it behind Stratton. He tipped it up. I was going to tackle him, but I was like, "Hey, the ball's sitting right there." I remember making a spin move and running down the sideline. I wanted to give the ball to a D-lineman. I ended up keeping it and falling into the end zone.

N-G: Was that your best moment as an Illini?

BJ: Yeah, it is. Anybody can call themselves a leader. But to be able to say you're going to do something and then be able to go out and do it ...

N-G: Where is your championship ring?

BJ: It's in storage right now. I don't want my son to lose it. I do not wear it. I don't want to draw too much attention to it.

N-G: Is it strange having your dad work at Rutgers?

BJ: Yes. It reminds me of when I first got here. My first two years, it felt like I was moving along. Then my dad got here and I got really focused. I was so used to having him being there. I remember a big (News-Gazette) article that said, "Welcome to Jacksonville." He still has that framed. Champaign is always like Jacksonville to me. That stadium is always Jacksonville. And there are no more Jacksons.

N-G: Did you go to the Illinois-Rutgers game earlier in the season?

BJ: Yes. I had Rutgers stuff on. I wanted Illinois to win every other game, but Rutgers is paying the bills.

N-G: What are you doing these days?

BJ: I'm working as a bank teller at First Federal. I'm married. I have a 1-year-old son, Devon Alexander. My wife is Chequetta Bearfield (a former Illinois sprinter).

N-G: Your son should be a pretty good athlete.

BJ: He loves football right now. When Coach Turner was here, Coach (Greg) McMahon offered him a scholarship before he was born.

N-G: Do you go to the stadium much?

BJ: Not really. I don't want to be in the way. A lot of the guys know who I am.

N-G: Did you like the hiring of Ron Zook?

BJ: Yeah. I think there is a ton of potential. I was there when the bandwagon was empty. Five years later, we won a Big Ten championship. I really believe Coach Zook has more talent than Coach Turner had coming in. I have confidence they'll be able to get it turned around.

N-G: Are you going to stay in the bank business?

BJ: I would like to go into financial planning. But I've been told that I cannot escape who I am and coaching is in my blood. I was out at Central coaching a little on the side this year. It was secret.

N-G: Give us a prediction for today's Illinois-Purdue game.

BJ: Illinois 24, Purdue 17.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports