[ ARENA FOOTBALL ]
Jackson back in action this
weekend in San Diego
Nate Jackson's journey back from a life-threatening illness takes him to San Diego this weekend.
The former University of Hawaii safety makes his debut with the Hawaiian Islanders tomorrow as they face the San Diego Riptide in an arenafootball2 contest, marking his return to football following a harrowing brush with death in 2002.
"I'm thankful every day," Jackson said yesterday. "I was so close to death you can't even explain how thankful you are every day just waking up and knowing a bunch of doctors and a lot of people behind the scenes gave me an opportunity to be here and be able to play football."
Jackson, who will play receiver/linebacker for the Islanders (3-2), was hospitalized with a viral infection that required heart-valve replacement in 2002. He said he received medical clearance to return to football a year ago.
"I got clearance from my primary doctor and my surgeon, so everything is a full go," Jackson said. "I'm not scared at all. I got cleared by my doctors, they've done their research and they've actually looked into it and they're totally happy with the prognosis and my physical abilities."
Jackson was among three former UH standouts who were activated by the Islanders yesterday in advance of tomorrow's West Division game with the Riptide (1-3).
Former Warrior slotback Craig Stutzmann will make the trip as an offensive specialist and Joe Correia, a defensive end at UH, joined the team this week as a lineman.
The newcomers fill the holes in the 19-man roster left by injuries to defensive specialist Eddie Klaneski, receiver/defensive back Anthony Arceneaux and lineman Shayne Kajioka.
Klaneski, the Islanders' leading tackler, was placed on the long-term injured-reserve list Wednesday after an MRI revealed a slight tear in the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He suffered the injury in last week's 61-42 loss at Bossier-Shreveport and will be out of action at least 30 days.
Arceneaux was placed on the short-term IR with bruised ribs and will miss one game. He leads the Islanders with nine touchdown receptions and has two interceptions.
Kajioka was banged up after playing in his first game of the season last week and was reassigned to the league.
Tomorrow's game marks Jackson's first action in a competitive setting since playing in preseason games with the NFL's Tennessee Titans in 2002.
Jackson, who weighed 165 pounds during his college days, said he lost 40 pounds due to the illness. He regained the weight since his recovery and will take the field at a relatively robust 186. He rates his speed at close to 90 percent of what it was before his illness.
"It's going to slow me down a step, but we call it game-time speed," Jackson said. "When the lights are on and it's live football, who knows how fast I'll be."
Jackson signed a contract with the Islanders in December. He was granted a tryout with the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe earlier this year, but was released and rejoined the Islanders at practice last month.
"He's an inspiration to guys that talk about the passion for the game," Islanders coach Cal Lee said. "Here's a guy who's living proof of what passion really means. He just loves the game of football and plays the way it should be played."
Jackson said he's adjusting to the quick pace of the indoor game as well as playing offense for the first time since his Pop Warner days.
"He's a good athlete. They (UH coaches) thought he could be a pretty good receiver too, but he played so well defensively he stuck with defense," Lee said. "He can run, he can catch, he's smart and I think he'll contribute to the team on both sides of the ball."
Along with playing together at UH, Stutzmann and Correia also played for Lee in high school at Saint Louis School.
Stutzmann racked up 2,025 receiving yards at UH and has been practicing with the Islanders for the past month.
"Craig brings a lot of experience and has great hands. Once he catches he ball he can make those runs after the catch and he runs great patterns," Lee said.
Correia joined the Islanders at practice this week and, like Jackson, is taking a crash course on playing offense after spending his college career on the defensive front at UH.
"He has to do some blocking, but he'll learn it real quick," Lee said.