For Army's football team, 9/11 came with an additional sad memory this year
By SAL INTERDONATO | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: September 12, 2017
MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Sept. 11 is a day of reflection for many folks across the country. It's a day to remember 16 years ago those who lost their lives in attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.
For the Army football team – its players, coaches and staff – Sept. 11 had an added meaning this year. It was a day to remember a teammate, friend and brother.
One year ago, a team meeting was called in Nowak Auditorium. Coach Jeff Monken delivered the painful news to his players. Sophomore starting cornerback Brandon Jackson had been killed in a single-car accident in Croton-on-Hudson earlier that morning following a 31-14 win over Rice.
"He's on my mind every day," said junior safety James Gibson, one of Jackson's closest friends on the team.
Gibson, No. 2, and Christian Drake, No. 8, formed Jackson's number leading the Black Knights onto the field for their next game at the University of Texas at El Paso.
The entire team and staff attended Jackson's services in the Bronx.
Chants of Jackson's favorite quote – "Scared money don't make no money" – echoed through M&T Bank Stadium as the Black Knights took the field looking to end a 14-game losing streak to Navy in December.
Morna Davis, Jackson's mother, delivered a powerful speech in Army's locker room following the 21-17 win over Navy.
Jackson was named most inspirational player of the 2016 team. The award was presented to Davis at Army's postseason banquet in January.
Jackson's spirit lives on in players past and present. "It's 2 am and I miss B Jack,'' former teammate Cole Macek tweeted the other day. "Love u 28."
"When the news was broken that he passed away, that's something I'll never forget, being with all of my brothers and finding out he was no longer with us," said Macek, a fullback on the 2016 team. "He'll always have a special place in my heart. It's tough thinking it was a year ago today."
Jackson's locker remains intact with his practice and game gear. Monken says the locker will stay that way until West Point's 2019 graduation, the day that Jackson would have become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
On Saturday, Macek attended his first Army game since transferring from West Point. He visited his former teammates and stopped by Jackson's locker for a few moments to say a prayer.
"Anything I'm doing in life, I should always strive to do great at it because Brandon would probably be upset if I settled for anything short of great," Macek said.
Current Army players take a knee at the 28-yard line, where Jackson's number is painted at Michie Stadium, and remember their teammate, friend and brother.
Jackson is with Gibson every game. Gibson wears a long-sleeved shirt that reads, "Be Thou at Peace, Brother" with an action photo of Jackson on the front and Jackson's number on the back.
"The team, coaches and friends that I have down at the Corps, we have supported each other through this past year," Gibson said. "It's just been really hard. We just have a closer bond. I know everyone on this team is here for me, even the freshmen. They've come in and embraced our team mottos and our team culture. That was great to see."
Monday was a difficult day for the Army football team. But Gibson, teammates, coaches and support staff got through it together.
©2017 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.
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