By ERIC HANSEN/SOUTH BEND (IND.) TRIBUNE
He is 35 years old, still has two good knees and is soaking in his third Canadian Football League Grey Cup victory these days.
But in his sudden spate of free time, former Notre Dame quarterback Jarious Jackson is doing what just about everyone else with ties to the Irish football program is doing.
“I’m looking for tickets to the National Championship Game,” he said. “I’m serious.”
Jackson is still serious about his own football, 13 years removed from his final game at Notre Dame. His Toronto Argonauts won the Canadian equivalent of the Super Bowl Sunday, 35-22 over the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th-ever Grey Cup.
It’s Jackson’s third Grey Cup in a career that has taken him from four seasons with the NFL’s Denver Broncos to NFL Europe’s Barcelona Dragons to the British Columbia Lions and ultimately to Toronto.
“When it was over in Denver, I had a tryout in Miami,” said Jackson, a seventh-round draft choice of the Broncos in 2000 and now the only ND alum on a CFL active roster.
“That didn’t pan out, so then I had a decision to make. But football is my passion. Every since I was a little bitty boy, my dad, my uncles, my cousins, with all of us, football was definitely big in my household.
“So when Canada called, it wasn’t very difficult to say yes.”
He ended up meeting his wife while playing with B.C., and now has two daughters, one almost 4 years old, the other having turned 2 on Friday.
Jackson had to get used to the rule variations in the CFL — three downs instead of four, a larger field, 12 players per side, goalposts on the goal line, to name a few.
“The biggest thing for a quarterback is the three downs,” he said. “You’ve got to be so much more efficient here. You don’t have a Mulligan, so to speak. So if you don’t get good yardage on first down, you could be in trouble.”
Jackson completed 72 of 135 passes for 846 yards and four touchdowns with three interception this season, primarily as the No. 2 QB for Toronto. He also rushed for 122 yards and three scores on 42 carries and got four starts while filling in for injured No. 1 QB Ricky
Among Jackson’s teammates are defensive tackle Armond Armstead, a USC grad who strongly considered transferring to Notre Dame last January for the 2012 season, and quarterback Zach Collaros, whom ND coach Brian Kelly recruited to and coached at the University of Cincinnati.
Jackson is signed through next season with Toronto, but isn’t sure how long he’ll keep playing.
“At my age, I look at this as a year-by-year deal,” he said. “I’m sure I’m going to sit and talk with the coaches or whoever and go from there. I still feel healthy. I still feel good. If they’ll have me back, I’ll be back.”
A lot of changed since Jackson’s ND career ended with a 40-37 loss at Stanford to end the 1999 season.
The coach who recruited him, Lou Holtz, became Dr. Lou and is a strong presence in ESPN’s college football coverage. The coach who he finished his career under, Bob Davie, is back in coaching again — at New Mexico — after 10 years out of the profession.
“It was funny to see him coaching again,” Jackson said of Davie. “If that’s what he wants to get back into, I’m happy for him. And coach Holtz, he’s a talker no matter if he’s coaching or on TV. That just seems kind of natural for him.”
Jackson maintains strong ties to former Irish assistant and recruiting coordinator Bob Chmiel.
And the only thing that will keep him away from watching his old college team on TV is a schedule conflict.
“On Saturday night, when they played USC, I was so sick, I could barely get out a bed,” he said of the 22-13 Irish victory. “In fact, I was so weak, I got out, put on my Irish shirt and then got right back in bed. But I watched every minute of it. It was truly an amazing game.”
His biggest surprise was seeing a 6-foot-6, 303-pound player, sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt, wearing his old No. 7. His biggest non-surprise was how much quarterback Everett Golson improved.
“I love him,” Jackson said of the sophomore from Myrtle Beach, S.C. “I’m a big fan of his. I think he’s awesome. Along with coach (Brian) Kelly, I think he’s making some great decisions. He’s getting hot right now. It’s all about getting hot at the right time.
“One of the unique things I learned about him is he doesn’t throw the football with the laces. That’s kind of weird to me — a good weird. I wish I could do that. There are times that will help him, because when you’re in the shotgun, it helps you get the ball going a lot faster.
“If I could give him one piece of advice for the National Championship Game, it would be play it like any other game. Don’t do anything that you haven’t done all year in terms of putting added pressure or stress on yourself. If he does that, he’ll be just fine.”
Remembering Dean Brown
Former Notre Dame offensive lineman Dean Brown, a member of the 1988 national championship team, died Thursday night.
According to a report in the Canton (Ohio) Repository, the Rev. Dean Brown spent roughly the last two decades working with children. Recently, he served as dean of Friendship Public Charter School, the largest such school in Washington, D.C. In August, he was appointed principal of Nexus Academy in Cleveland, the paper said.
Brown, who starred at Canton McKinley High, played for Notre Dame from 1986-89 and started the last 25 games of his career. He was an American Studies major at ND.