Not to brag or anything, but I was a great college football player.
I must have been since I was able to start the play as the quarterback, pass to myself as the receiver and then come streaking across the field to make the tackle as the strong safety.
I did all of that, in front screaming fans in the Coliseum and in the Big House and in the Orange Bowl, without ever leaving my backyard.
Just me, me and voice inside my head. The voice of Keith Jackson.
There’s a reason I wanted to write today about someone I never actually met. This space originally was going to feature a column on the NBA, something centered on the recent very real struggles of LeBron James.
But I changed plans Saturday when another topic surfaced, a topic even more real, maybe nothing in this world as genuine as a child’s imagination.
Later in life, I had the privilege of sharing the pressbox with Jackson, the legendary broadcaster who died Friday at 89.
I saw him in the Coliseum and at the Rose Bowl. I once held open a door for him at the Superdome. He said thank you.
But I never introduced myself, never dared approach a man known for being vastly approachable. I mean, what do you say to someone so nearly mythical to have already heard it all?
Jackson is now being correctly and affectionately recalled as the voice of college football, his audio signature on so many special moments made more special by the way they sounded.
But he wasn’t just the voice of a sport. He was the voice of my dreams, the voice that gave flight to a small boy’s sense of wonder, and there’s no way I was the only one.
That’s what is staggering about the life this man lived, the absolute volume of influence made by a single person whose simple career assignment read like an exercise in unleashing the imagination:
Describe what you see.
Simple, yes, but the way Jackson did it, profound, as well, his style beloved in such a way, to such a degree that – admit it – even you have a Keith Jackson impression….