With so many returning players coming into the 2021 season for UCLA, one of the potentially key components could be someone who has only played one game in his UCLA career. Myles Jackson may have missed most of last year. But Jackson’s journey back for UCLA has a lot of people inside Bruins football talking about the potential for the linebacking group.
Myles Jackson’s Journey Back For UCLA
The second-year linebacker from Hoschton, Georgia was injured in week one last season at Colorado. After season-ending knee surgery, Jackson began his therapy. While there is never anything good about needing knee surgery, Jackson tried to find some positives to surround himself with. “When it happened, I just pretty much tried to think of all the positive aspects that could come out of it. I tried to get my playbook. And I still tried to be around the team. I tried to attend all the walk-throughs,” Jackson said earlier this week. “Above all, I had to attack rehab. Because I knew being negative about it wasn’t going to help anyone. It wasn’t going to help me. It wasn’t going to help anyone.”
That path of handling the recovery has not gone unnoticed from his head coach, Chip Kelly. “From day one, when he came in here, there was a maturity to him,” Kelly said. He came in here and planned on playing as a true freshman. And he played as a true freshman.” It wasn’t the way anyone had planned. His total stat line for the game was one solo tackle. And one bad knee. Just days later he was on his personal Instagram account announcing that he would require surgery for the injury and be out for the remainder of the shortened season. Even if UCLA had played its regular 12 game season, it is unlikely Jackson would have been available for any of it.
Remember, the Pac 12 season did not start until November 7th. By the time Jackson announced his knee surgery, it was on a date that under normal circumstances would have been the halfway point of a regular season. But last year getting hurt in week one, meant surgery in late November. That created an abbreviated calendar for rehab and recovery.
Kelly says he was not surprised by Jackson’s ability to rehab and be back for Spring. It emanated from that confidence that Jackson displayed so early on. “It was never too big for Myles,” Kelly said. “Sometimes, when kids make that jump from high school to college, you know it’s hard,” he said. “You know, you go from a high school environment where you’ve got maybe 2,000 kids in high school, now you’re strolling onto a college campus, and you’re playing in front of big crowds, and all that other stuff. And it takes awhile to get acclimated to it. That’s why you see some kids blossom a little later. Very rarely do you have a good player who’s a freshman that just seems like he’s been there for the longest time.”
Kelly said Jackson was prepared from the time he started last season. There were only three Spring camp workouts prior to the COVID shutdown. But early enrollees had a chance to do walk throughs on the field and workouts in the facility. “You know, you’re one week into training, because he came in early, and it’s like he has been here for a year-and-a-half. He knew where he was supposed to be. He had an unbelievable work ethic. We had to pull him back a little bit. He was a kid that was always trying to stay extra after our training session and do more.” Kelly said knowing the physical adjustments freshmen go through, the coaching staff did not want him overextending himself.
Jackson has been working out throughout Spring camp, but last week he posted on social media what he had been working so hard for.
I’ve just been officially medically cleared!!!! Thank God🙏🏿
— MJ (@_mylesjackson) May 13, 2021
Six months after the surgery he was cleared to go through all drills in camp.
Back On The Field
Jackson said he was confident he would be ready for the start of camp. “I knew that as long as I attacked rehab as hard as I could than everything would fall into place,” Jackson said. “The work I put in every day helped me get to this point.”
The work is the work every day. But there is also a determination in the mental and emotional parts of the rehab that can be equally difficult. “That was pretty much the biggest thing,” Jackson told us. “It wasn’t so much physical. I knew what I had to do from a physical aspect. For the mental part, I had to keep myself sharp. The thing I really emphasized was taking it day-by-day. Not looking five months ahead, or not looking like a year ahead.”
Jackson said he gave himself a grade each day for winning the day or not.
He said once he hit the workouts this Spring. He had put in the work, and the UCLA team around him get credit, he said, for making sure his body was ready. “The trainers did a great job of making sure I was fully prepared before they released me.”
New And Improved
Once he was on the field it was not like old times. Jackson it was better. “I felt pretty confident in my body in the way I was moving. I felt like I was moving a lot better than I had before.”
Kelly said Jackson has set a new bar with how hard he worked to come back. “I don’t know if everybody would be back for Spring ball like he is. But he is back with a vengeance.”
Kelly said he does not know if anyone has worked harder to come back from injury than Jackson has. The coaching staff was prepared for him to have to ease his way back into camp. But Kelly said Jackson came ready on day one.
Kelly called him a tone setter. While UCLA lost only one starter on defense, having an active and healthy Myles Jackson’s journey back will likely make a big difference on the defensive results.