By Dedra Cordle
Like so many athletes throughout the state, Tony Jackson dreamed of playing football for The Ohio State University.
He began honing his skills in little league and maintained his passion for the sport despite a major setback during his seventh grade year at Norton Middle School – he broke his leg on a play in the first game and was out for the season.
He excelled in the eighth grade, becoming the leader coach Ed Kennedy knew he always would be.
He went on to play for the Central Crossing Comets during his freshman and sophomore years, and then transferred to Westland to finish out his high school career.
At both schools, he racked up many honors and scoring titles, but admits he had his doubts as to whether he would ever fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a Buckeye.
“Honestly, I didn’t know if I was good enough,” he said during a special assembly at Norton Middle School on Nov. 26.
Even though he was not offered a scholarship to play for the Buckeyes, his stringent focus on academics – his older sister Tiffany Bingham, who is now an intervention specialist at Franklin Heights, was the one who pushed him the most to maintain good grades – and his skills on the field netted him scholarship offers at acclaimed schools such as Bowling Green State University and Northwestern.
He was set to become a Wildcat and face off against his beloved Buckeyes once a year in the Big Ten Conference, but after head coach Randy Walker passed away, his football scholarship offer was pulled.
He looked to Bowling Green State University, but a coaching change at that school led to his football scholarship offer being pulled.
Eventually, Jackson decided to enroll at Ohio State and try to make the team by becoming a walk-on.
“It was really hard,” he said. “Every single day you had to work longer, work harder and outlast everyone vying for a spot.”
His skill, determination and work ethic landed him a spot on the team, but he was never complacent.
“Walk-ons do not have a permanent place on the team like those on scholarship,” Jackson said, “and that is something you think about every single day on and off the football field.”
He spent much of his time at Ohio State on special teams (during several games where he played at linebacker, he led the team in tackles) but the most important part to him is that a dream was realized.
With his playing days behind him, (he graduated with a degree from the Fisher College of Business in marketing and logistics in 2011) he wanted to donate his jersey to the place that shaped him into an excellent football player and student. Kennedy, his former football coach and teacher at Norton who currently works as the coordinator of ESL services at South-Western City Schools, encouraged him to speak to the students about never giving up on their dreams, no matter how big they are.
At the assembly, Jackson shared his personal rules for success on and off the field. The first rule was to ‘Start Fast.’ The second was to ‘Dream Big’ and the third rule was to ‘Finish Strong.’
He emphasized rule number two.
“You have to Dream Big,” Jackson told the students. “You have to visualize what you want to do, where you want to go, and who you want to be.”
For many of the students who came up to Jackson after the assembly, they said they too wanted to be Buckeyes and they swore to work as hard as Jackson did to make their own dreams come true.