When offensive lineman Jonah Jackson transferred from Rutgers to Ohio State earlier this year, his departure could have left ill will inside his old locker room.
Instead, little bad blood lingers despite switching teams in the Big Ten East.
Former teammates in attendance at Big Ten media days last week in Chicago offered well wishes for Jackson, who had joined the Buckeyes for his final season of eligibility.
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“We loved him,” said Tyreek Maddox-Williams, a linebacker for the Scarlet Knights. “I still talk to Jonah. I understood he did what he had to do for him, his family. If players transfer, they probably have their reasons for it. Coaches can go, so players can go."
Part of the understanding is tied with the growing frequency of player movement in college football across the country. Rules changes this decade have made it easier to transfer.
They had seen others leave, but the players from Rutgers also pointed out that Jackson had been a popular presence. They voted him captain last season and admired his work ethic. In front of reporters, they raved about his leadership.
“He's just a really hard worker,” left guard Zach Venesky said. “He gets along with everybody, but even though he gets along with everybody, he's willing to step up to the plate when he needs to and confront somebody when there's an issue. He holds people accountable.”
Jackson, who arrived at Ohio State for summer workouts, joins an offensive line that is thin on experience.
Four of five starters must be replaced, leaving him as a logical candidate to start at one of the guard spots. Only redshirt sophomore Wyatt Davis, who started the final two games at right guard last season, has previous starting experience at guard for the Buckeyes.
Jackson — 6 feet 4 and 305 pounds — started at right guard last season for Rutgers when he was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention. He also started five games at center as a redshirt sophomore in 2017, a sign of the lineman's versatility.
“He can play anywhere on the line, I think,” Venesky said.
In practices, Jackson’s focus stood out. Maddox-Williams referred to it as leadership by example.
“He was hard-nosed,” Maddox-Williams said. “He was probably one of our most consistent guys. When you have somebody doing that, you want to do exactly what they do.”
Linebacker Tyshon Fogg referred to Jackson as a “natural-born leader.”
“Each and every single day he comes to the field, he comes with a chip on his shoulder just to get better and get guys around him better,” Fogg said.
That example could help the offensive line at Ohio State more quickly gel when preseason camp begins next month.
The reasons that prompted Jackson’s decision to transfer are not well known.
“It was just what he felt was the best choice,” Venesky said.
In an interview with NJ.com in January after announcing his intention to transfer to Ohio State, Jackson brought up both academic and athletic reasons for his departure. He noted that he wanted to obtain his master's degree at another school, while also seeking a new opportunity on the field.
“I just wanted to see what else the world had to offer,” Jackson said.
Rutgers has gone through its share of struggles since joining the Big Ten in 2014. It went 1-11 last fall, suffering a fourth consecutive losing season.
At Ohio State, Jackson faces much better odds for a memorable finish to his college career.