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Columbia Missourian

TIGER KICKOFF: Who was Jimmy Jackson before he was a Tiger?

September 12, 2008 | 5:48 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - Gary Pinkel calls him the ultimate team player. Chase Daniel says that he can't remember seeing him ever feeling sorry for himself.

None of this is a surprise to Hayti High School coach David Gilmore. He was the coach of Caruthersville High School in Missouri's Bootheel for only a year, but he spent that year coaching Jimmy Jackson, the most veteran member of the MU backfield.

Saturday’s Game

Nevada (1-1)

at No. 6 Missouri (2-0)

WHEN: 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Memorial Stadium

TV: Fox Sports Net

RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM

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"You never see Jimmy without him having a big smile on his face," Gilmore said. "That kind of person is a force that lights everybody up. He's the kind of person everybody wants to be around."

In Jackson's senior year, Caruthersville brought in Gilmore from Hayti to turn around a program that had struggled mightily. At Hayti, Gilmore had coached current Tiger William Moore and former Tiger Charles Gaines. He recognized quickly that he had another player with exceptional talent in Jackson.

"We went 11-2 that year, and they (Caruthersville) had had an eight-year losing skid, hadn't had a winning season in eight years," Gilmore said. "We put Jimmy in the one-back set, and he ran for 2,600 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior year. He was just a great overall athlete, I guarantee you."

But the talent was only half the battle for Jackson and Gilmore's quest to make the Tigers into a winning team. As good as Jackson was, Gilmore said his work ethic made a bigger difference.

"When your best player is also your hardest worker, it's easy to get the other kids to work on the team," Gilmore said. "A lot of times in high school football, especially at the lower levels, sometimes your best players do not have the best work ethic because they know they're the best on the team."

"But that wasn't the case with Jimmy. Jimmy was the hardest worker and probably the best player on the team at the same time, so it was easy for the other kids to look up to him. I can't say there was ever one bit of jealousy from his teammates towards him, because of that." Jackson's final act as a high school player toward his teammates was to join Moore and Gaines in helping provide a link between the small towns of Pemiscot County and Division I football in Columbia. Today, he still provides a link between his hometown and Missouri. In June, he and Moore returned to the Bootheel to speak to current high school football players.

"To see all three of those young men get out of Pemiscot County and go to Mizzou has been very fulfilling to me," Gilmore said. "I know that we have good kids down here that are young enough to play. When our younger kids see those kids get out from here, it makes it easier to (go in) next year, come back and coach and try to get other kids to that level."

Jackson hasn't seen the on-field success at Missouri that he did in high school, but Gilmore and several others know what he's capable of when given a chance, both in football and in life.

"This is my fourth year coaching without him, and I wish I had another back of his caliber still," Gilmore said. "He's just a tremendous kid, a tremendous athlete, a great person to be around."