Saturday, October 9, 2010

Strong Relationships Remind Quarterback Of Home

The distance between Gardena, Calif., and Athens is 2,334 miles. For Boo Jackson, a few old friends and some new teammates made the gap much more manageable.

Ohio's redshirt-senior quarterback came to the Bobcats after two years at El Camino College with his teammate and fellow redshirt-senior, Hilton Dawson III.

When preparing to move to Ohio, Jackson heard that Patrick Tafua, a junior-college player at Golden West College in California, also planned to join the Bobcats.

"We played against each other," Jackson joked. "I threw a couple touchdown passes on him."

Jackson sent Tafua a message on Facebook, and the trio planned to fly to Ohio together.

"Ever since we got here, we've been close," Jackson said of recently graduated Tafua and Dawson. "All of us are family-oriented. We love our family. We want to be as close to our family as possible."

But going to school on the opposite side of the country made that unfeasible. The trio stuck together for the most part, which helped ease the transition to the Midwest.

Tafua and Jackson hit it off almost immediately because of their similar heritage.

"Boo is half-Hawaiian, and me being Samoan and just having the Polynesian kind of mentality. All of the Polynesians, whether you're from Hawaii or Samoa or wherever, you're family," Tafua said. "Family is the biggest thing, in that sense in that common respect we have for each other."

But Jackson and Tafua both said it didn't take long to make friends in Athens.

"The people here are so friendly," Jackson said. "They just came up to me and went, 'Oh! You're the new quarterback.'"

Jackson said he missed his family, but making new friends and getting close to his teammates helped him cope with his relatives not being able to watch him play every weekend.

"We get four tickets a game, and I have to give them away," Jackson said. "It's kind of difficult at times, but we know we made the right decision."

Jackson's mother, brother, sister, brother-in-law and niece all attended the Marshall and Ohio State games this season, the first time they saw Jackson play since 2008.

"It was tremendous for me," Jackson said. "It's not a five-hour drive (for them to get to games), it's a five-hour plane ride, so it's kind of difficult."

Despite the close family relationship, Jackson defied his mother's wishes when it came to something that had been a signature of his for a long time: his hair.

Since he arrived in Athens, Jackson gained notice off the field for two reasons: his easy-going attitude and long, frizzy locks. In 2008, he decided to cut it off while his mother was in town.

"I've had long hair since before I came here," Jackson said. "It's kind of like a Polynesian thing."

Jackson's mother was cooking dinner when Tafua reached for the hair clippers. By the time the quarterback's hair was gone, his mother had angrily walked away.

"She stopped making dinner and went to sleep. I was like, 'Okay, I'll finish,'" Jackson joked. "She loves my long hair. It was difficult for her to watch."

The quarterback said he cut it because he didn't enjoy the recognition he received when walking around campus.

In his first game after the trim, Jackson threw for five touchdowns against Akron, making him think short hair was a good omen. But a season-ending shoulder injury at the beginning of 2009 made the quarterback jokingly rethink it.

Now in his final year of eligibility, Jackson has started Ohio's last two games, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns.

He said that, no matter where he ends up, Athens will always remind him of home.

"Where I grew up is exactly like this," he said. "It's a small town surrounded by a high school, college town. All we had was a Walmart and a movie theater.

"It actually makes me appreciate this place more."

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