A few weeks ago, Giles Jackson caught Nerf balls. Saturday, he helped beat Oregon
Playing with a small brace on his left thumb, Jackson made big plays in his 2023 debut.
SEATTLE — Consider all that was required of the Washington Huskies to beat the Oregon Ducks on Saturday afternoon — the stars who made career-defining plays, the do-or-die nature of so many crucial fourth downs, a last-second field goal slipping just outside a goalpost. Michael Penix Jr. played through cramps. Rome Odunze strong-handed a couple touchdowns, including the game winner. They’ll show those highlights forever.
Yet the big moments only arrive because of so many smaller victories prior, and thanks to a longer list of contributors who, expectedly or otherwise, help bridge the margins. It is in that spirit that senior receiver Giles Jackson should have a prominent place in the retelling of UW’s 36-33 victory, a result the Huskies would not have achieved without him.
That’s not something anybody could have guessed before Saturday morning. Jackson, a fifth-year senior, tore a ligament in his left thumb during preseason camp. He finished fifth on the team in receiving last year, catching 28 passes for 328 yards, and figured to play a similar role in 2023. The injury, though, prompted coaches to wonder if a redshirt season might be the smart play, considering the time Jackson would miss, the four-game redshirt allotment and the Huskies’ receiver depth, even without him.
Doctors cleared him not long after the Arizona game, Jackson said. In the interim, he had been running and cutting with AJ Middleton, an assistant strength coach — “literally running the whole practice,” Jackson said — and replaced Nerf footballs with real footballs only in the last couple weeks. That progression began with a tennis ball, then a softball, assuaging Jackson’s initial concern that he wouldn’t be able to catch the same.