VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The words that flow from the mouth of Tupelo native Jarious Jackson have a slight hint of a Canadian accent. A touch of Denver and a little bit of South Bend, Ind., as well.
“I feel like I have a neutral accent,” Jackson says.
But ever so often, a “y’all” or another word that has a trace of the South will pop into a sentence. It’s this mixture of expressions that remind Jackson of where he has been and how far he has come, from Tupelo High School all the way here as the backup quarterback for the Canadian Football League’s B.C. Lions.
“I know I’ll never be able to get rid of that southern drawl,” Jackson said. “That will always be there and with certain words, I will … I catch people off guard sometimes. They know I am from the South.”
Now in his fifth season with the Lions, Jackson, a team captain, has found a football home with B.C. and a home away from home in Vancouver. He has settled in as the team’s second-string quarterback and reached stability in his family life. He met his fiancée in Vancouver and the two had a daughter named Jiselle, on Jan. 15.
“Who would have thought that I would have met my future wife in Canada, of all places, because most of the people in the South, when they think of Canada, they think of Eskimos,” Jackson joked. “They haven’t traveled enough to understand that this is another world of its own pretty much.”
From South Bend to Denver
Jackson, a former Tupelo High quarterback and the former starting quarterback at Notre Dame in 1998 and 1999, arrived in Vancouver in 2005 after four seasons with the NFL’s Denver Broncos.
When the Broncos released him, Jackson looked for other options in order to continue his football-playing career, and the CFL appeared as the most viable scenario.
Jackson inquired about which CFL team owned his rights, and found it was the Lions. So in 2004, he worked out for the team, and was offered a contract one year later.
“The Canadian league was one of the leagues that was open,” Jackson said.
In Canada, Jackson was exposed to a different type of football.
The field is 110 yards long and 65 yards wide. The goalposts rest just behind the goal line, and teams get three downs to gain 10 yards. This lends to more possession changes and back-and-forth action.
“In college, you try to stay away from third-and-long, but you have two other downs to try to gain at least five or six yards,” Jackson said. “Whereas here, you have one down to do that, and if you’re not positive on first down, you can be in second-and-long and it can be a long night.”
After throwing for 507 total yards in his first two seasons, Jackson found his rhythm, starting 17 games the last two seasons. In 2007 he threw for 2,553 yards and 2,164 in 2008. He has combined for 35 touchdowns during that span.
“I have never ever caught a ball as hard from a quarterback as Jarious Jackson,” Lions wide receiver Paris Jackson said. “He throws the ball with extra zip.”
Since the CFL plays 18 regular season games, many teams use a two-quarterback system. And it was expected that Jackson and Buck Pierce would be the duo to guide the Lions this season, but before the year began, Pierce was named the starter.
Backed by fans
However, as a backup, Jackson has garnered the support of the B.C. fans, and his teammates. He was voted captain by his peers, and after a Pierce injury against Edmonton on July 16, Jackson came in and completed 19 of 27 passes for 362 yards and four touchdowns.
Pierce started the next week, against Calgary, but was replaced by Jackson at the beginning of the second half to a loud ovation of 27,191 Lions fans.
“My role is to keep the guys around me, to try to keep them pumped up and try to keep them in the game,” Jackson said. “It is almost like a player-coach.”
During the off-season, Jackson maintains a home in Houston, Texas, so he can be closer to Tupelo. He tries to make it home, “when I can,” he says. After living in so many places, “home” is a loose term for Jackson, but no matter where he is, he won’t overlook his roots.
“Even though I have been gone for a long time from home now, I haven’t forgotten anybody,” Jackson said. “I haven’t forgotten where I came from, and I’m still the same Jarious Jackson from Tupelo High School and graduated in the class of ‘95. I just happen to be somewhere else in the world.”