When Marty Jackson announced last month that he was stepping down as head football coach and athletic director at Aquinas High School, he said he was looking for a new challenge.
Jackson is going to get his wish. He has been tapped as the new head football coach at Evans High School.
"This is a great opportunity for me," Jackson said Tuesday after meeting with members of the Evans coaching staff. "I wanted to come to a place where I know we have a chance to win year-in and year-out. This came open, and I know you can win here."
Pending the approval of his recommendation this week at the Columbia County school board meeting, Jackson will replace former Evans coach Lee Chomskis, who resigned in January.
One of Jackson's local rivals, Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis, has already offered his stamp of approval.
"I had a feeling he might get picked," Lewis said. "I think Evans has made a good choice. Marty Jackson is a good coach, a disciplinarian, he works hard. He's the kind of guy that does whatever it takes to win."
Jackson has been at Aquinas since 1993, where he helped toughen up a traditionally weak Fighting Irish team. Before Jackson's arrival, Aquinas had won five games in five seasons, but over the past five years, the Irish posted a 25-25 win-loss record.
The Evans search committee settled on Jackson based on his past performance as a head coach and his potential with the Knights.
"The things that stood out were his demeanor, his energy and his willingness to get in there and get going," Evans Principal Don Brigdon said. "It seemed he had what we needed. He knows football and he has a very positive outlook."
Jackson, a 42-year-old native of Mobile, Ala., considers himself "an eternal optimist," and that approach helped him move up the coaching ladder.
"Growing up as an Auburn fan, I'm used to being the underdog," he said. "I've always been a little short and a little slow. I never started a football game in high school, but I decided to walk on at Auburn because I wanted to learn some football."
Jackson admits moving from Class A coaching at Aquinas to the AAAAA level at Evans presents a challenge, but that is exactly what he was looking for.
"It's a big step up, but I wanted to be revitalized. Evans has so many coaches and so many players, and that's exciting," he said. "At Aquinas we were competitive, but I want to get to the point where it's not a question of whether you're going to be good or not, but how good are you going to be this year."
Jackson still has to fulfill his contract obligations at Aquinas, but he plans to spend as much time as possible at Evans until the end of the school year. He plans to conduct spring football practice with the Knights later this month.
As far as the 2003 high school season goes, Jackson already has some ideas for his first campaign in Columbia County.
"I'll help coach the quarterbacks and I want to emphasize the kicking game," he said. "If we can focus on kicking, I feel that will help us win some ball games."
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