LINCOLN — One uncle exposed his nephew to all that Husker football had to offer. Another uncle created quite a stir when he accompanied his nephew this week to NU’s campus.
The Matt Damon-at-Nebraska story gained depth Thursday when Huskers Illustrated first reported that Damon’s nephew, 5-foot-11, 180-pound Hollywood, Fla., athlete Ishmail Jackson, intended to try out for the NU football team.
He’s not a walk-on yet. He’s the just-in-town, cleat-in-hands walk-in. It’s a role his uncle, an Oscar-winning screenwriter and Oscar-nominated actor, might have played in his “School Ties” days, when he portrayed a fumble-prone running back at a prep school.
Wednesday, Damon was just one of many walking around Nebraska’s campus with Jackson during new student enrollment. Initially, few noticed Damon.
“He fits in really well,” said Jackson, whose aunt, Luciana Bozan Barroso, married Damon in 2005. Barroso had initially intended to accompany Jackson, the first person in his immediate family to attend college, to campus. But she thought her husband, a Harvard attendee from 1988 to ’92, might have some tips to share.
Then a UNL student, Cody Foland, took a picture with Damon. He posted it to Twitter. A few hours later, Jackson said, “it was crazy, crazy.” Pictures and fans galore.
By that time, Jackson said, Damon, had already “racked up a ton of Husker gear” and become impressed with NU’s campus and academic support for new students.
“He loves it here,” said Jackson, who played for South Broward High School. “It was just like his first day, too. He really wanted to go.”
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How did Jackson — a two-star prospect at wide receiver and defensive back — settle on trying out for the Huskers? Another uncle, former Omaha Beef and current Nebraska Danger defensive lineman Jervonte Jackson, told him about the school.
“I kind of pushed it off at first,” Ishmail Jackson said. “But I did some research and found out it was one of the top football programs in America. The head coach, Bo Pelini, he’s great. I hear he’s tough, but that’s what a team needs to be successful.”
Jackson hasn’t talked to Pelini yet. He has talked to Jeff Jamrog, NU director of football operations, who’s spearheaded a renewed emphasis of the walk-on program since Pelini’s arrival.
Jackson said he will try out for coaches in early August and stay enrolled in school whether he makes the team or not. If he doesn’t, he plans on trying out again next spring.
“I love the campus and I love the people,” Jackson said. “I’m determined to get on this team.”
He’d come with a celebrity fan for an uncle.