Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Friday, May 11, 2001

The picture of
strength isn’t so big

YOU SAW IT. I saw it. We all saw it. There was Nate Jackson, in living color in a huge photo on Page B1 of the Star-Bulletin April 30, drilling some guy. Running over the Oregon State catcher. You remember the picture.

You remember why you remember it. It was the moment of impact. This was the football headhunter, UH free safety turned UH centerfielder Nate Jackson. Assassin Jackson.

Jackson flattened Oregon State catcher Bryan Ingram at home plate, and there it was, a moment frozen forever. Jackson crashing. Ingram collapsing. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For one Star-Bulletin staffer, studying the page here in the office, it was good for at least one:

"Mokes," the man said, shaking his head in perverse appreciation.

Tough guy. Bully. Punk football player intimidating people.

But no.

"Nah, no way," Jackson said. "Home plate, I kinda felt sorry. Cause I was about five steps from home when he caught the ball, and I was 'ho,' just kinda stopped, 'cause I know I would've got kicked out. So I just tried to really slow down, and I kind of couldn't slide 'cause he was too far up the line and I would have slid way early, so I just tried to stop, really. Not really to hit 'em. I didn't even think I was going to put him on his back like that. I just thought he was going to move to the side and tag me or something."

Perfectly innocent. And legal, since Ingram was blocking the plate.

"Oh yeah, football and baseball, to me, is a whole different mindset."

Jackson's football mindset is to run at full speed until he hits something. That, in the picture in the paper, that was no football hit. In football, "For me, my technique is just run as hard as I can until contact and just let it all out, I guess," he said. It's one of the secrets to his unlikely football career.

"I was always small," he said. "Nobody knew ... nobody ever thought I would play high school, nobody ever thought I would play college football. But I played college, I started, I played high school, I started."

In the beginning of his junior season of Division I football, the University of Hawaii free safety was listed at 154 pounds.

Now he says he's up to 170.

"One thirty-five!" his baseball teammates yelled.

Jackson rolled with the joke. "One twenty," he said.

Whatever. It's not much. "Any weight will help, for me anyway," he said. For the past eight months he hasn't been able to add a pound. He hopes another breakthrough in weight gain, 10, maybe 15 pounds, is on the way. He wants to weigh 185. That's his goal. His high end goal. Still not much for Division I football.

But that's okay. "Size no matter," Jackson said. Not if you can knock people over. Not if you can hit. Not if you can let it all out with vicious precision.

Jackson has come so far that he said that it was June Jones who first asked him if he wanted to play baseball in the spring, not the other way around. Jackson was glad to have his coach's blessing.

The photo, The Fray at Home Plate, may not have been the whole story. But it did show the big picture. Before, Jackson was the guy who was too small to play football.

Now he's the moke.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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