Jackson's feeling the love

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Clint Conque has been receiving Tristan Jackson updates from Edmonton Eskimo fans.

In a true story, Conque - the head football coach at the University of Central Arkansas - is receiving emails from fans regarding his former player.

But maybe Green and Gold supporters should be sending thank-you notes to Conque because he played a role - along with a couple of other coaches - in encouraging Jackson to join the Edmonton Eskimos.

After Eskimos director of player personnel Paul Jones told Conque of Edmonton's desire to sign Jackson this off-season, the UCA head coach delivered a very clear message to his ace returner.

"I sat Tristan down and said: 'Look, here is the bottom line: Sure, every kid dreams about playing in the National Football League. But it is a bird in a hand. And it is: Who loves you? And these guys (in Edmonton) really love you. And that has got to mean something to you,' " said Conque.

DIDN'T WAIT LONG

Jackson waited for the NFL draft, but when nothing materialized he didn't wait for a last-minute invitation to an American training camp.

Taking his coach's advice to heart, he signed with the Eskimos - and has produced return touchdowns in back-to-back games heading into tonight's tilt with Hamilton.

The instant success doesn't surprise Conque, who watched Jackson take two punts to the end zone last year.

"Once you saw him on the field - his vision, ability to cut and his hips - he was probably the best running back that we had on campus in the two years he was here," said Conque.

That made him the easy choice to be a returner with the NCAA Division I AA school.

While Jackson was a running back in high school, he was a defensive back at UCA.

The five-foot-eight speed demon will be taken out of the starting secondary alignment tonight.

"It bothers me a little bit," the Mississippi native quietly admitted yesterday.

Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia hasn't given a public explanation for why the move is happening, but part of the reasoning has to be trying to save Jackson's legs.

The 22-year-old only played nine games at UCA last year. He will play his seventh CFL game of this season tonight - with a possible 16 more to come before the year is over.

Whether Jackson can withstand the difficult schedule as a rookie isn't known.

But Conque knows the Eskimos have a tremendous young man in the locker-room.

TRUE GENT

In fact, he calls his former player a true southern gentleman.

"Once you get past the fact that he is a little bit vertically challenged and you get down to the part that he is a football player and can impact your team, you fall in love with the kid," he remarked.

"In the two and a half years of our association, we never had one off-the-field issue with Tristan.

"He is a fabulous person. We are big into community service here.

"We do some things with the children's hospital and reading program and Tristan was out front with everyone of those.

"He is truly a special young man."


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