Unnecessary kindness

When he comes into a room, he usually has to bend down.

When he sits down at a table, he has to hunch over to see what he’s reading.

He barely has to leap into the air to catch a pass over most people’s heads.

Then again, he does all that with a smile, as if there was a wire hanger in his mouth.

Recently promoted No.1 wide receiver Amarri Jackson does all of that and more. Not bad for not playing football for two years. Generally laid back and unannounced, he does everything with a pleasant attitude and a quality that some football players don’t exhibit.

Nor roommates.

“I don’t even prepare to go to sleep,” senior running back and Jackson’s roommate Andre Hall said, “because I know he’s getting ready to jump on me. But really, he’s a good guy.”Jackson, who transferred after playing two seasons of basketball at Hillsborough Community College, may only have one catch this season, but that’s not stopping him or, in his opinion, any of his other teammates.

“I don’t think anyone has seen our best game yet. None of us,” the Sarasota native said. “Not even Andre has put together his best game yet. He didn’t even have his best game last year, and I’d hate to see it, because it would be scary.”

But it’s different for Jackson. He walks up to people then blinds them with kindness. When he dons his pads and steps onto the playing field, he transforms; the smiles and kindness fade away quickly, he said – a green-and-gold Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde transformation.

“I like to greet people on and off the field,” Jackson said. “Off the field, I’d rather be known just as a student, but on field I’m a student athlete. Though on the field I’m not going to be a nice guy. My face changes – everything’s just different.

“I can be the nicest person, but off the field.”Being nice comes easy to Jackson, something he attributes to his mom, Vickie, who taught him well, not only in manners, but also in athletics.

“My mom is a sports mom,” Jackson said. “She ran track, like me, and she loves being around sports. Everyone in my family likes to be around sports. You should have seen them Saturday (against FAMU). They were louder than anyone.”

For some people, being nice doesn’t come easy. It makes a lot of friends and keeps enemies away, but it doesn’t stop what Hall claims is “roommate love.”

Sometimes it brings a little hazing. Hall, always the practical joker, made sure he got his sophomore roommate when the timing was right with what Hall said, “was probably the cruelest thing I’ve done.

“Amarri has this dog, this little rat dog. Calls it Scrappy. One day he was gone – I think he was in the bathroom. I took Scrappy and I took my (phone) charger cord and I tied it to the ceiling and had him hanging. He came in, and started crying about Scrappy.”

Jackson laughingly admits it happened, but Hall isn’t the only one who he’s bonded with. Sophomore Johnny Peyton, who Jackson replaced on the depth chart as the No. 1 receiver, is also dear to Jackson.

“We’re close, just like brothers,” Jackson said. “We always call each other (on the phone). Our mamas are getting to know each other. We never go out competing. Last game, we came out of the tunnel holding hands.”

Although, the depth chart or the numbers – Peyton has six catches and two touchdowns – don’t matter one bit to either one.

“I don’t look at it that I’m No. 1 wide receiver. We don’t have one on our depth chart. Anyone can go out there and start, then we move all around. We have plenty of talented receivers who need to focus on catching the ball. We had a tough time catching the ball (against Penn State).

“We look at it like (Miami Dolphins running back) Ronnie Brown and (Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back) Cadillac Williams when they were at Auburn. They played the same position, rotated, both went in the first round (of the NFL Draft). If they could do it, then why can’t we?

“I never go in where I say, ‘I have to get over Johnny. I have to be better than him.’ And he doesn’t either. We coach each other. We’re both six-five receivers getting the job done.”

Sounds like a good guy, acts like a good guy, plays like a good guy. Anyone who has run into

Jackson in any way can’t seem to disagree.

“As coach you always like to see that (attitude) in your players; it’s got to come from upbringing,” said receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey, who came from LSU after they won the co-National Championship in 2003. “He’s been doing real good; has a lot of talent. Some things you can’t coach. Talent is one of them, and he gets the job done when he needs to.”Former coaches concur.

“USF stayed with him all the way through (HCC),” said Riverview High School football coach John Sprague, who had Jackson as a junior and senior in high school, where he lettered in three different sports. “Nothing about him surprises me. Amarri worked hard at everything – academically at community college, sports – and he’s a sound person and everything worked out great for him.”

Everything except for one thing: Jackson wanted to play basketball; has been for years and wanted to continue at USF. Men’s basketball coach Robert McCullum made him choose.

In the end, Jackson said the decision was easy.

“Football is my first love. It wasn’t hard to transfer back into football. Off the top, I was thinking football. It wasn’t hard to choose, but I would’ve liked to play basketball for USF. But (USF track and field) coach (Greg Thiel) said he was going to let me run track.”

Beyond the height, the wise decisions to go to HCC and family unity, there’s still something that Jackson spreads farther than his impressively long frame.

“I like him a lot,” Hall said. “He keeps me smiling. His family is just like him, so they must have done something right. He brings so much energy, and always has a joke.

“It’s been a long journey, for both of us. It’s time for it to pay off. We don’t take anything for granted. That’s the type of guys we are.”

Just nice guys.