He’s a Northwest native, our own home-grown sports icon. And today, Michael Jackson raised the 12th Man flag on our downtown Seattle roof for Super Blue Friday.
Michael Jackson grew up in Pasco, where he starred at Pasco High. The Bulldog then became a Husky, twice earning All-Conference honors and clinching UW’s 1978 Rose Bowl win while playing for Don James.
And in 1979 Jackson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, where he starred at linebacker for eight years.
Today I learned he and I are only three years apart (Michael is the young guy), and we have several things in common. Among them, we’re both “old school” and think colleges should honor tradition by sticking with their school colors. That means UW teams should wear purple and gold. Not white, or all black, or U.S. flag colors, or whatever.
Jackson also is a grandpa several times over, and like me, he’s known as Pappa.
One thing we don’t share is a love for hydroplanes. Oh well. Jackson confessed he never once attended the Tri-Cities races while living there.
I asked him if there had been another college he seriously considered before choosing UW in 1975.
“Think about where I grew up,” Jackson said. Ahh, of course.
“I grew up a Cougar fan. (Coach) Jim Sweeney came to my house to recruit me, and we sat down on the couch with my dad,” Jackson said. “Sweeney told my dad that I wouldn’t be able to start for the Cougars the first two years.”
Mr. Jackson quickly showed Sweeney the door.
Michael had been wary of the Huskies because of the racial strife that tainted part of Coach Jim Owens’ tenure. But Don James arrived in 1975, and when he met the Jacksons during a layover at Pasco Airport, Michael liked him. He became a Husky.
“At UW I was a backup running back and safety, but our linebackers kept getting hurt,” Jackson said. “So I was asked to shift to linebacker. I weighed just 205 pounds.”
He resisted, but eventually realized it was his best shot at playing time and agreed to shift.
Jackson enjoyed near-instant success in 1975. He was among the earliest Huskies to start as a freshman. (The NCAA had not allowed freshmen to play varsity football until 1972.)
After four years of stardom, Jackson was drafted in the third round by the Seahawks. He played through 1986 and remains among the team’s all-time leaders for tackles.
Currently, Jackson and his wife Kathy live in Kirkland. He helps kids as the development director for Auburn Youth Resources.
And this morning, Michael Jackson became the third Seahawks celebrity to hoist our flag during this magical playoff season.