Former Nebraska safety Harvey Jackson expected his name to be called at UConn.
Just not in this way.
Sitting in an LDS chapel in Bloomfield, Conn., the day before the game, with his new BYU teammates at his first football fireside, Jackson spoke to a capacity crowd about being a non-Mormon playing in Provo.
During a question-and-answer segment, a member of the congregation asked about the experience of players not of the LDS faith.
“He wanted to know about the guys that come here, what’s the difference? How do you like it?” Jackson said. “All the guys up on the stands were like, ‘Harvey, that’s you.’ So I just got up and spoke.”
Jackson talked about the maturity of the players and all the nice people he’d met in Provo. He also said at BYU it’s not all about football, that Coach Bronco Mendenhall teaches players about being men.
“It was a great experience,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know what to expect. If my name gets called, I’m always ready.”
His name was called again on Friday, this time on the football field. Jackson played on punt return and a series on defense. He came on blitzes twice, nearly getting to the UConn quarterback both times.
“I’m earning my way, so it’s working out,” Jackson said. “I’m getting better every day. I felt good stepping on the field wearing the ‘Y’ on my helmet. I did some good things. We won and we won big time, so that’s always good.”
Jackson wasn’t listed on the two-deep chart going into the game, a fact he wasn’t even aware of until reporters pointed it out.
“I treat every day like it’s game day,” Jackson said. “I study hard and I practice hard. I write down everything Coach (Nick) Howell says. He’s a great coach and trains us well. I guess that carried over to the field for me.”
Howell, BYU’s defensive coordinator, liked what he saw from Jackson.
“He played probably seven or eight plays at nickel,” Howell said. “He was assignment sound.”
Jackson said the hardest part of the transition from Nebraska to BYU was learning the new terminology and calls for a different defense.
“I had to switch my mind from Nebraska defense to BYU defense,” Jackson said. “The second thing was the elevation. We run all the time. We train real hard here. We run to the ball, on the field and off the field.”
Jackson, who is from Fresno, Texas, said he played at Daryl K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium as a junior in high school during the state playoffs, though the field has changed from grass to turf since then.
Nebraska fans have a pretty good hatred for Texas football. Jackson said he liked Texas until they didn’t offer him a scholarship.
“Everybody wants a piece of each other,” Jackson said. “It’s a competitive sport. We’re coming there, they know we’re coming. It should be a great game.”
This week, Jackson is listed on the two-deep backing up starter Dallin Leavitt.
“That’s great, now that I know I feel pretty good about that,” Jackson said. “I expect to be ready. I expect when my number is called I just go out there and keep it rolling.”
No fishing: Howell was asked about Alani Fua’s “fishing” personal foul.
“Apparently, it’s gone,” Howell said. “He’s a fisher of men, is what I’ve heard. We’ll just leave it at that.”
Howell went on to say the senior linebacker played as physical a game as he has his whole career.
“It’s funny, because a stat sheet says somebody did this and this and this, but when you turn the film on, sometimes that tells different story,” Howell said. “Alani’s stat line wasn’t great, but I thought he played really, really good.”
Setting the rotation: Howell said senior Rob Daniel, who sat out the UConn game due to suspension, will start at cornerback against Texas. The other starter will be sophomore Michael Davis with freshman Jordan Preator and senior Jordan Johnson, another player who sat out due to suspension, rotating in.
Howell said sophomore linebacker Harvey Langi, a Utah transfer who was held out of the first game due to injury, will play this week. Senior defensive tackle Marques Johnson will also play after sitting out the first game because of a suspension.
The edge: Howell also praised Leavitt, who had four tackles, half a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
“I thought he was active and very physical,” Howell said. “He brings that nastiness to a defense that I really, really like. He plays kind of on the line and borderline over the line. He had that 15-yard penalty. It’s kind of hard to coach that out of him and you probably shouldn’t do that, but I like that edge that he brings. It helps our defense.”
Creeping up: BYU received 21 votes in the Associated Press Top 25. The Cougars had eight votes in the preaseason poll. This week’s opponent, Texas, is just out of Top 25 with 126 votes. BYU has 26 votes in the Coaches Poll, while Texas is ranked 25th.