Kevin Jackson won at the 1992 Barcelona games in Freestyle Wrestling.
Growing up, University of Minnesota, Crookston junior defensive tackle Cole Jackson didn’t have to look far to get a little bit of motivation to achieve his goals. All he had to do was to go into the cupboard, open a drawer and pull out the Olympic gold medal that his father, Kevin Jackson, won at the 1992 Barcelona games in Freestyle Wrestling. Now chasing his own dreams on the gridiron, Cole has looked to his father’s guidance to help him as he etches his own path as a member of the Golden Eagle football team.
Jackson’s father was an elite collegiate wrestler for Louisiana State University and then Iowa State University after LSU disbanded its wrestling program. Jackson was a four-time All-American during college and was the NCAA runner-up as a senior at Iowa State in 1987. After his collegiate career, Kevin Jackson chased his Olympic dream. In 1992, Kevin defeated Elmadi Jabrailov, who wrestled for a team that consisted of former soviet republics, to win the gold medal at the 82 kg weight division.
“Being that my Dad was a gold medalist, I have been around the highest level of training you can be around,” said Cole Jackson. “It doesn’t get much higher than the Olympics.”
After Kevin’s wrestling career was over he pursued a career in coaching that again led him down the Olympic track where he was head coach for the U.S. Olympic Team from 2001-08. During his tenure heading the team, the U.S .sent two teams to the Olympics and two of his wrestlers, Cael Sanderson (2004) and Henry Cejudo (2008) won gold medals. This has allowed Cole even more exposure to what it takes to be an elite athlete.
“I just really got to see that these elite athletes are just the same as everyone else,” said Jackson. “Growing up there I got to see grown men go to my father and cry because it was too hard. Just seeing that opens your eyes that even though they are these great athletes, they are still human. Just being around those athletes in the Olympic Training Center, really opened my eyes to what being an athlete is all about. They were going twice a day and never taking any breaks and always doing the right thing. That really helped me get to where I am now because I knew the training that it took to get to that level.”
Though Cole has been around elite wrestlers all of his life, he chose to take a different path. Growing up, Cole was interested in pursuing a career on the basketball court but around the time he started high school he got interested in wrestling and football. As high school came to an end Cole decided to stick with football and went on to compete at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“There is always the mindset that I am wrestler at heart but I love football,” said Jackson. “I have been playing it ever since I was a little kid just messing around. Once I finally got those pads on it just stuck with me.”
Cole used his time on the gridiron at Iowa Western Community College well as he received quite a bit of interest from NCAA Division II schools like Northern State University and Western State University but it was when he received interest from UMC that he finally discovered he found where he was going to continue his football dream.
“Coach (Sean) Knox gave me a call one day and we spoke on the phone and I decided to take a visit up here. My head coach (Scott Strohmeier) at my junior college went to school here when he was in college. I decided to take the visit and at first I saw the small campus and wasn’t really sure but I just felt that this school really wanted me. I was on vacation in Colorado and everyone from the coaching staff was in a meeting and they actually called me. Once they did that I just really felt that they wanted me here so I just felt this was the place for me.”
Now Jackson has found a home at UMC and three games into his first season in Crookston, the defensive tackle has already started his three games as a Golden Eagle. Jackson credits much of his success on the defensive line to those skills he learned growing up around wrestling.
“Being a wrestler I really know how to control my body well and play with great leverage. That isn’t something that everyone is able to do on a day-to-day basis. At the same time I feel like when I get a tackle I am going to be able to stay on my legs just like I was able to do in wrestling. Wrestling has made me a better football player.”
Jackson is looking to make a big impact in his two years at UMC. Though the Golden Eagles are 0-3 through the first three games this season. He sees promise in the future of UMC football.
“After this year, I am going into my senior year, and I want to do as much as I can to make sure we are getting these victories and hopefully making the playoffs in the next 1-2 years,” Jackson said. “What a better way to go out than going to the playoffs with a team that hasn’t won a conference game in four years. If we make the playoffs that is history right there.”
Though football is his focus now, Jackson doesn’t count out the possibility that he might turn back to wrestling after his football career is over. Possibly working with his father who has been the head wrestling coach at his alma mater, Iowa State, for the past three seasons.
“Ultimately my goals are just to be successful but it is everyone’s goal in football to play in the NFL. If that doesn’t work out I eventually want to get into coaching with my father. Like I said before, I am a wrestler at heart and I love the sport. I have a lot of passion for it.”
Whether it is on the wrestling mat or on the gridiron, Cole Jackson has been around elite level athletes all of his life from his father to the athletes his father coached. No matter what the future brings, Cole Jackson is sure to bring a work ethic to the field that is second to none. Much of that can be attributed to his Father and that gold medal he won so many years ago.