Veteran to Rookie

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016



Veteran to rookie: the lifestyle of arena football

By Ike House
Panola County is full of talent that goes on to compete at the next level but there are few that get the opportunity to play after college. The county alone has two NFL players in Jamarca Sanford and John Jerry, three arena players in Alvin Ray Jackson, Nick Brassell and Ricky Hunt and one Canadian player in Jamarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick.
Not every one is fortunate to play at those levels and to play in the Arena League takes more than physical toughness, it also takes mental toughness. Players have to be more in tune with their senses and keep their head on a swivel because of the speed of the game and size of the field. To be labeled as an athlete at any level is God given ability and Brassell and Jackson were blessed, with it.
Alvin Ray Jackson
Alvin Ray Jackson is in his ninth year in the arena league where he spent three seasons in the AF2 which is the development league for the AFL. He received an All-AF2 honor in 2009 with the Albany Firebirds. He also received two First Team All-Arena honors, one with the New Orleans Voodoo in 2012 and last year with his current team the Jacksonville Sharks.
In his five years in the AFL he has totaled 334.5 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumble, 11 fumble recoveries, 24 pass breakups, 35 interceptions and a sack on defense. On offense he has 11 receptions for 132 yards, two touchdowns, 12 returns for, 44 yards, and a touchdown.
Jackson is 35 years old and with looking to continue his career and plans tio be at the top of his game.
“I train differently now because instead of sprints I do more cardio,” Jackson adding, “I also take Zumba and P90 classes to try to stay mentally sharp.”
This season Jackson and the Sharks are off to a slow start with a 3-4 record but Jackson is still having a good season. So far he has 24.5 tackles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and one catch for 13 yards.
“I plan on increasing my interceptions the most because the best thing I can do for my team is give the ball back to the offense,” Jackson said.
 As far as veterans go, Jackson is one of the top players for the Sharks and he said that he is respected by his peers as one of the top players in the league. With the end of the season on the horizon, he is looking to lead his team to postseason play and also a couple of individual accolades.
“I try not to rank myself and leave that up to others. I mentor the younger and older guys about the game therefore I am respected as a top guy,” Jackson said. “With the postseason play, I shoot for that every season,” he said.
Nick Brassell
Brassell is a rookie in the IFL which is the Indoor Football League. Brassell has played on more than one level in his career and he has accomplished many feats including being the first player ever in the SEC to start on both sides of the ball, playing in the Canadian League and now taking his talents to arena football.
“I just have the want to,” Brassell said, “I trust my talent and my push to be on the field at all times.”
As a rookie he has accomplished a great deal of things with only playing half of the season because of a mid-season signing. He now plays for the Nebraska Danger which is looking to finish the season strong.
“It feels great to be able to go out and play football again,” Brassell said “and to be apart of this team is a great feeling.
Brassell has put together a decent season already and has been big in special teams. His stats for the year are two carries for 34 yards, eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, 11 kick returns for 230 yards and a touchdown and a tackle on defense.
Only two games into his rookie season he was named the Special Teams Player of the Week with a big performance of seven returns of 190 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ve always known I could produce at a high level,” Brassell said, “I came in right away and helped in a big way,” he added.
After only playing in four short games he is already fourth amongst skilled players and fifth amongst the team in all-purpose yards with 347 yards. As a rookie that is a big feat especially with veterans in front of him.
“Just to be able to work with the veterans, it raises your potential,” Brassell said.
 “They were already here winning so I had to hit the ground running,” he said.
With the season drawing close to an end he plans on helping the team get to postseason play and make a run but his ultimate goal is still to get to the NFL.
“That’s my goal. Being here in the IFL has helped me grow and get my feet wet and I’m trying to do my best to get to the NFL,” Brassell said “I just want to show all the kids under me and back home that hard work will make your dreams come true.”
Even though Brassell has had ups and downs in his college and professional career he said that he continue to strive
“I just have to continue to work hard and stay focused, my trust is in God,” he said.

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