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Not since Bob Allen, an All-America breaststroker and top lineman at Iowa in the late 1930s, and Stanford's Bob Anderson, a star halfback and two-time NCAA 50-yard freestyle champion (1946, '48), has an athlete so successfully combined football and swimming on a national collegiate level. Jackson has led the Logger football team to a 10-1 record and a probable berth in the NCAA Division II playoffs with 66 tackles, nine sacks and two blocked field goals. Against Cal Davis, Jackson even returned a punt 57 yards to set up a 7-0 UPS victory. And against Humboldt State he became the first UPS lineman to intercept a pass in 16 years. On Saturday in a 10-0 win over Santa Clara in a driving rainstorm, he had five tackles.
As a swimmer Jackson is a three-time Division II 100-yard breaststroke champion, a two-time winner of the Division II 200-yard breaststroke and a member of the Loggers' 1980 and '81 record-setting 400-yard medley relay teams. His 55.20 clocking over 100 yards at the 1980 Division II nationals was then the third-fastest NCAA time ever for that distance. He is the only Division II swimmer ever to place in a Division I meet and has twice been a Division I All-America in the 100-yard breaststroke. Last summer he finished fourth in the 100-meter breast-stroke at the World University Games in Bucharest.
That Jackson reached these levels of achievement is, well, astounding, considering his early athletic life. "I was a disaster as an athlete when I was little," he says. "My father made me play baseball when I was 10, and I was a reserve-reserve-reserve. The coach practically had to drag me up to bat, I was so afraid of making a mistake. And when I got to the plate, I never swung. I either struck out looking or walked.
"Then, in the middle of my ninth-grade year, my family moved to Tacoma, and all the kids at Curtis High were involved in sports. I felt pressured to join a team, and since the school had just built a pool...."
At the time, Jackson's competitive swimming experience had consisted of a 25-yard freestyle race in a phys ed class. "I figured 25 yards of freestyle was all I could take," says Jackson. "You can't afford to breathe in the freestyle. So I decided breaststroke would be easier; I could breathe with every stroke if I wanted to."
Jackson swam competitively for the first time as a sophomore, and his times dropped steadily. But he made a lot of people in the stands nervous. "The gun would go off, and Bob would go 100 mph," says Jim Baurichter, a swim coach at Curtis High. "He couldn't finish a race. It was as if somebody put a piano on his back for the last 75 yards."
Jackson didn't give up. "The next year I was struggling at 1:07, still trying to qualify for the state meet," he says. "Then, at the district meet, I went 1:03 and got third. I was so proud, until a kid got up on the bus on the way home and shouted, 'Bob Jackson will never go under 1:03.' I thought, 'Oh, yeah?' " Two weeks later Jackson set a Washington state record in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 59.3.
At the state meet his senior year, Jackson had a bad case of the flu and sagged to a time that was more than three seconds slower than his record. As a result, he didn't have any trouble avoiding the pressures of college recruiting. Washington U. didn't deem him worthy of a swimming scholarship; he was told he could try to earn one as a walk-on.
But Jackson's mind wasn't set only on swimming. After playing defensive tackle and place-kicking for two years at Curtis, he looked into the possibility of playing football at Washington State, but once again no scholarship was forthcoming. "So I decided to make both schools regret that they didn't give me a chance," says Jackson.
He did get an athletic scholarship at Puget Sound. Soon he worked himself up to 200 pounds and opened everyone's eyes. "He's the quickest [4.6 in the 40] and the smartest guy on the team," says Wallrof. "He has never lifted weights. He gets his strength, quickness and concentration from his swimming. He has a swivel move that few defensive linemen have. It lets him change directions instantaneously when pursuing a play. He's very flexible. That's why he doesn't get hurt. When he gets hit, he just collapses."