Former Albany High, Florida State and New York Jets star defensive back Bobby Jackson, seen above in a picture from FSU where he wore No. 40, will have his No. 45 jersey retired tonight during a pregame ceremony at Hugh Mills Stadium, which will host Jackson’s beloved Indians against the Mitchell County Eagles shortly after.
ALBANY — No. 45 is about to be No. 1 in Albany High sports history — and Robert “Bobby” Jackson is finally getting his due.
“It feels great to be the first — I think (former basketball star) Al Smith should’ve been the first — but it feels very good, very satisfying,” the former Albany High, Florida State and New York Jets star defensive back told The Herald by telephone Thursday evening. “It’ll be good to come back, see my family and relatives and just be home.”
Awaiting Jackson, 56, at home will be a jersey retirement ceremony this evening at 7 p.m. at Hugh Mills Stadium, where Jackson’s beloved Indians (1-1) will host Mitchell County High School (2-0) shortly after. And when his orange and green No. 45 is hung from the rafters, it will be the first in school history. Jackson wore No. 45 at AHS and No. 40 in college and the pros.
“Yes, it’s overdue. It’s something we should’ve done a long time ago, and we’ve wanted to do for awhile. It just finally happened to work out (to do it tonight),” said longtime Albany High A.D. Archie Chatmon, who was a youngster just entering high school at rival Westover when Jackson played across town — but Chatmon said everyone knew who Jackson was. “We all followed him. He was a great, great player.”
Jackson was a ball hawk, a one-of-a-kind disrupter on defense. And on special teams? He was a blur.
After a stellar career at Albany, he went on to break the interception record in Tallahassee, while also leading the Seminoles in punt returns.
“The 5’11”, 185 lbs. speedster from Albany, GA took little time in dismantling all competition for the defensive back spot at Florida State. Soon after freshman Bobby Jackson set foot on the Seminole practice fields he claimed his starting position,” writes Nolefan.org, a Florida State website dedicated to Seminole sports history. “Jackson’s speed and quickness blended dangerously with an appetite for aggressive hitting. His excellent hands and an outstanding knack for coverage receivers one-on-one made Jackson an immovable object in the defensive secondary.”
After earning a degree in criminology, he left FSU with a then-record 10 interceptions and was drafted in the sixth round by the New York Jets, where he was named to the All-Rookie Team his first season, evolved to a defensive captain and went on to play in New York for eight years (1978-85). He picked off 21 passes — leading the Jets in interceptions four of his eight seasons — scored three touchdowns and was named one of the organization’s Top 3 cornerbacks ever when it selected him to the All-Time Jet Team.
Florida State, meanwhile, wasn’t far behind after, electing Jackson to the FSU Hall of Fame in 1993. And while tonight’s ceremony will be on the smallest stage of them all, it may very well be closest to his heart.
“I get home once a year. But I’ve got my whole family and friends and everyone here with me (for tonight). It will be a special moment,” said Jackson, who works in marketing for a sporting goods store in New York these days, but he still owns a home in the Good Life City. “My son, Ashun, played for Tuskegee and won two championships there — they called him ‘Action Jackson’ — and so the day after (the ceremony), we’re going to watch Albany play Tuskegee. We can’t wait.
“And I already told him, I’m pulling for the Rams.”
Tonight’s ceremony will be conducted by Dougherty County Director of Athletics Johnny Seabrooks, who will speak briefly about Jackson’s career and then turn the mic over to one of Jackson’s former coaches, Ferrell Henry.
On Thursday, Seabrooks seemed almost as excited to retire Jackson’s jersey as Jackson was.
“It is very much exciting. As an athletic director, a coach, whatever … you always hope for an opportunity to do something like this one day when a student-athlete goes on to do well,” Seabrooks said. “It’s an honor I’m looking forward to (bestowing) on him, and I hope it creates a situation where all those other student-athletes watching will aspire to the same kind of greatness so one day they can come back and we do the same thing for them.”