Fall 2017

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Carrying the Load

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Five Northwestern football players signed with NFL teams in the spring.

• Anthony Walker Jr. ’17, Indianapolis Colts, NFL Draft fifth round

• Ifeadi Odenigbo ’17, Minnesota Vikings, NFL Draft seventh round

• Austin Carr ’16, New England Patriots, undrafted free agent

• Joe Jones ’16, ’17 CERT, Dallas Cowboys, undrafted free agent

• C.J. Robbins ’15, ’17 MS, Tennessee Titans, undrafted free agent

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Justin Jackson prepares for final season of a monumental career.

Justin Jackson
Justin Jackson, who is poised to become Northwestern's all-time leader in total yards and touchdowns, was named to the Maxwell Award Watch list during the preseason. Photo by S.J. Carrera Inc., 2016.

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Justin Jackson never envisioned having such a fruitful football career. When his older brother tried out for a local football team in Carol Stream, Ill., 9-year-old Jackson joined him because he didn’t want to be left out.

It turned out to be a wise decision. “As the years went on, I just kept playing and realized I was good at it, which I didn’t really expect because I went in blindly,” says Jackson.

He played high school football at Glenbard North, where he holds the record for career rushing yards (6,531). During the recruitment process, Jackson thought he’d fit in at Northwestern, where he saw a community of players and coaches who work hard and look out for one another.

When he learned that his high school football rival Clayton Thorson, a quarterback, had already committed to the Wildcats, Jackson made up his mind. “Getting to be in the same backfield together was something that I thought would be really cool,” says Jackson of his Amateur Athletic Union basketball teammate. “We already had a good chemistry as friends and as competitors.”

Thorson, who played against Jackson at Wheaton North, knew the Wildcats were getting a leader. “Off the field, [Jackson is] not always the loudest guy,” Thorson explains, “but when we get in workouts, he’ll yell and make sure we’re doing things right,” the redshirt junior quarterback says. “That comes out of love for his teammates.”

Heading into his senior season, Jackson — aka “The Ball Carrier” — has little to prove. He is set to become the Wildcats’ all-time leader in total yards and touchdowns. But Jackson wants to be remembered as “just a guy who came in and worked hard, … a great leader and role model for the younger guys on the team,” he says, “a guy who went out in every single game and just competed, no matter the score or the team.”