Light linebacker is heavy on desire

Senior Jackson leading 6-1 Navy's reborn defense

October 27, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

If there is going to be a battle, Navy's Lane Jackson is the type who wants to be right in the thick of it.

Although undersized for his inside linebacker position, the senior has tenacity and determination, enabling him to accomplish more with less than perhaps anybody else on the team.

"He's smart with great football instincts, a player who finds the ball," said Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green. "Lane might be 195 pounds wringing wet, but he's very strong in the lower body with maybe the strongest legs on the team. He plays a lot bigger than what he is."

"I don't know if I've seen a guy who works at it harder or plays harder," said coach Paul Johnson.

Jackson, a devoted weightlifter, disputes the 195-pound figure, saying, "My playing weight is 217." But at whatever number he tips the scales, he is carrying his weight.

He is one of the major reasons Navy is 6-1 heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Delaware and perhaps headed for a second straight bowl game.

The senior tandem at inside linebacker, Jackson and Bobby McClarin, are like bookends flying around the field and putting the squeeze on opposing ball carriers. Seldom is one or the other inconspicuous on a play.

"They are going at 100 miles an hour and they're always around the football," Green said. "And I'm not sure either one has missed a snap. ... In our scheme, you want your linebackers to be the leading tacklers. It's a tribute to them that they are out there game after game, being in the right spots and making plays."

Therefore, it's no surprise Jackson is the team's leading tackler with 71, three ahead of safety Josh Smith, who has led the team for two straight seasons. McClarin is a close third with 64.

"Ideally, it should be me and Bobby," Jackson said. "You don't want Josh making a lot of tackles behind us."

Equally comprehensible is Jackson's life goal - to become a Navy SEAL, a member of an elite sea-air-land fighting unit trained for special missions.

"I've wanted to be a SEAL ever since I was little," said Jackson, a general engineering major from the Miami area. "I used to watch on TV, the Discovery Channel, what it was like being one. They're a tough, hard-nosed group of guys."

From among 40 candidates at the academy, 16 will be chosen to attend SEAL training at Coronado Naval Base in the San Diego area. Jackson has spent time there with Steve Holley, a former Navy quarterback/slotback who became a SEAL.

Coincidentally, the last Navy linebacker to lead the team in tackles, Clint Bruce (1996), became a SEAL.

Jackson has started 27 consecutive games and has made 219 career tackles.

He was originally an outside linebacker, but moved inside after four games last season. The Navy defense has been more feisty ever since.

"I like being inside. It's better because there's more action. They can't run away from you," he said.

"We thought we needed somebody in there, and since he's moved we've gotten better play on the run," Green said. "He's got a lot of responsibility against the passing game, too, and he calls some signals for us. Lane's just a hard-nosed young man."

Exactly what a SEAL should be.

Next for Navy

Matchup: Delaware (6-1) vs. Navy (6-1)

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: CN8/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

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