Justin Jackson has never really been the star of the B1G. It’s not that he hasn’t been worthy of that type of attention, it’s more a credit to the number of high-caliber running backs blessing the conference on a yearly basis.
In 2015 the buzz surrounded Ezekiel Elliott. Last year, it was Corey Clement and Saquon Barkley. Now, heading into 2017, Barkley is at the forefront of the conversation again. And while Jackson’s name is starting receive more recognition, he’s still not the guy in the B1G.
So far, that hasn’t bothered him. If you were just a casual fan, you probably didn’t realize that the Northwestern running back has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first three seasons. You probably didn’t know he’s been one of the top ball-carriers in the conference every year. And you probably didn’t know that Jackson was – at least statistically – the conference’s top running back last year.
Jackson’s junior campaign was sensational. He rushed for 1,524 yards, leading all B1G backs. He also scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 5.11 yards per carry. He capped his best year statistically with the best game of his career, rushing for 224 yards and three scores in Northwestern’s Pinstripe Bowl win over Pittsburgh.
That’s a taste of what Jackson has done over three years with the Wildcats. And though he may not get the same recognition as guys like Barkley, he’s on pace to end his career with some phenomenal accomplishments.
So what’s Jackson have to look forward to in his senior season in Evanston?
Oh, just a few school records and working his way up the list as one of the B1G’s all-time greatest running backs. Not too shabby for a guy who was “mistakenly” left off the Doak Walker Award watch list last summer.
Here are some of the milestones within Jackson’s reach as he enters his final year.
Northwestern’s all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns
Both records are currently held by Damien Anderson, who ended his career with 4,485 yards and 38 touchdowns. It shouldn’t be much trouble before Jackson becomes the program’s all-time leader in those categories, though.
With 4,129 yards in his first three seasons, Jackson is just 357 yards shy of owning the school’s rushing record, something that might be accomplished even before Northwestern kicks off B1G play.
After scoring 15 touchdowns last season, Jackson put himself in position to take down that record, too. He needs just nine to surpass Anderson on that list. Though it may not come as early in the season, it should be a lock for the senior ball-carrier.
Most all-purpose yards in Northwestern history (rushing & receiving)
Really, Jackson is just going to break all the records that Anderson set. But this one might be the most impressive.
It only makes sense that if Jackson was to become the all-time leading rusher, he’d also be close to that all-purpose yards mark, as well. But here’s what’s really astounding: if Jackson rushes for 1,143 yards in 2017, his rushing numbers alone will be higher than Anderson’s all-purpose total (5,271).
Over his career, Jackson has averaged 1,376 yards per season on the ground.
Jackson’s 582 receiving yards improves his all-purpose total to 4,711, needing less than 600 yards to own that record.
By the time his career is over, Jackson should have his name all over Northwestern’s record book.
B1G’s second all-time leading rusher
If you haven’t paid attention to Jackson over the past three seasons, this might surprise you. Even if you have watched him eviscerate defenses regularly since the beginning of his career, you might be a little stunned.
Jackson currently ranks 17th on the all-time list, but could jump as high as second – passing Ohio State great Archie Griffin – if he’s as productive as he was in 2016.
Griffin finished his career with the Buckeyes with 5,589 yards while winning a pair of Heisman Trophy awards. While Jackson won’t be able to replicate the Heisman feat, he’ll need 1,461 yards this fall to pass a B1G and college football legend.
In each of the last two seasons, Jackson has rushed for more than 1,400 yards.
Jackson doesn’t have a realistic shot to become the conference’s all-time leading rusher, as he’s almost an even 3,000 yards behind Ron Dayne. Still, posting better numbers than guys like Melvin Gordon III, Montee Ball, Anthony Thompson and Griffin would be an incredible accomplishment.
Second-most yards from scrimmage in B1G history (rushing and receiving)
Jackson actually needs 1,343 total yards to reach second on this list, about 120 less than he needs to get to second all-time as a rusher.
Once again, Dayne is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack and has a sizeable 2,700-yard advantage on Jackson. But like the rushing record, claiming the second-highest total in conference history is pretty special.
Most of Jackson’s production has come on the ground, but has hovered around the 200-yard mark as a pass-catcher, as well, which has helped his cause in becoming one of the most productive offensive weapons in the B1G.