As he addressed the media Tuesday, Army coach Jeff Monken said he has no doubt about his football team’s ability to persevere. After all, with their training at West Point each of the young men that comprise the Army Black Knights is determined to overcome and prevail during tough times.
These are certainly tough times.
Less than 24 hours after defeating Rice in their home opener last Saturday, a win that boosted Army’s record to 2-0 for the first time in exactly 20 years, came the devastating news that sophomore cornerback Brandon Jackson was killed in a one-vehicle accident in Croton, N.Y., about 15 miles southeast and across the Hudson River from West Point.
“Brandon is a young man that was deeply cared for by the people here at West Point, beloved by his teammates, a friend, a brother to these guys and he will be sorely missed,” said Monken. “We are just so saddened for his family, for his loved ones at home and his friends.”
The 20-year-old Jackson, who was from and attended high school in Queens, was recruited by John Loose when the latter was a defensive coordinator at Lafayette. Loose, who was previously an assistant at Army in the 1990s, returned to West Point after Monken took over following the 2013 season. Jackson remained in touch with Loose and ultimately committed to West Point.
It proved to an outstanding decision. Not only did Jackson remain in his home state and only about a 90-minute drive from home, but after a year at the Army Prep school he played in all 12 games last season (nine starts) and led the team with three interceptions while finishing fifth in tackles with 62.
Through two games this season Jackson had six tackles. His biggest play came late in the third quarter at Temple when on third-and-goal with Army leading 14-10 he broke up a Philip Walker pass in the end zone. The Owls had to settle for a field goal in what would be a 28-13 Black Knights win.
Jackson was honored by teammates on others on social media:
God needed a shut-down corner on his team in Heaven… ?? #28 https://t.co/wOB8DhqB6t
— Alex Aukerman (@AlexAukerman) September 12, 2016
R.I.P Brandon Jackson ?? pic.twitter.com/01sxlhaLdq
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) September 12, 2016
“When you lose somebody that you love, it’s tough,” said Monken. “This is no exception. Our guys are having a tough time and are reeling right now. I am just so impressed and so proud of our guys for the strength that they have within this brotherhood and the love they have for each other. That becomes very apparent and you really find out what that means to a team when you go through a difficult time and certainly, this is one of those difficult times. I’ve seen these guys just band together and it’s been really incredible to watch how they have supported each other in the last couple of days.”
After taking courses that are typically offered to freshmen, or plebes, at West Point last year, Jackson was starting to take courses geared toward his major of business management. As such his loss is felt well beyond the football field.
“The Corps of Cadets is very saddened by the loss of their teammate, Cadet Brandon Jackson, who was a proud and committed member of Echo Company, 2nd Regiment,” said Diana Holland, Brigadier General, Commandant of Cadets, in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Brandon’s family and friends during this most difficult time.”
Army will travel to UTEP to take on the Miners (1-1) in game that ASN will televise and live stream Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The best way to honor their fallen teammate, said Monken, would be to go out and continue to represent the academy in a first-class manner.
“I hope the way we honor him most is by the way we play and the way we conduct ourselves in everything that we do,” he said. “When you are part of an organization that represents a much larger group of people, which we are fortunate to do here, everything we do is a reflection on the group whether it be our professional conduct in the corps, academics, what we do on the field, and Brandon did all of those things really well. He was a great cadet, a good student, a good football player and he represented this program in a way that I want all of our guys to represent this program.”
A GoFundMe.com campaign has begun to help Jackson’s family defray funeral costs.