Ohio State's 'Hercules' is a big teddy bear who feeds the homeless
Antwuan Jackson is a "super senior" for Ohio State, using the 2020 COVID-19 year the NCAA granted athletes in order to gain a fifth year on the field.
What has he done with that year? So far the defensive tackle has played in every game, registered 20 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, and even as a backup, he has graded what the team's coaches deemed a champion effort twice — in wins over Minnesota and Nebraska.
But Ohio State wasn't originally where he thought he was going to make a contribution. Jackson's college career started at Auburn. After one year there, he transferred to Blinn College, a JUCO school where Jackson recorded 70 tackles, nine sacks and three forced fumbles and was named the 2017 Southwest Junior College Football Conference Most Valuable Player.
He joined OSU the next season and has been quietly helping the Buckeyes on defense ever since.
Learn more about Antwuan Jackson with this Columbus Dispatch Q&A.
Meet Ohio State football defensive lineman Antwuan Jackson
What's it like to run through that smoke at the beginning of a football game? Do you ever get lost in it?
You've really got to put your hands out just to make sure you don't trip over nobody because you don't want to fall. That's the most embarrassing thing, like if you fall and everybody sees. So you've just got to keep your space from somebody who's in front of you or behind you.
I'm always talking when I go through it. I'll be like, "Oh! Woah!" just trying to get through it. It's fun though.
Hercules, your Twitter handle? I love that.
I had it as soon as I was born. My mom, my dad both gave me the Hercules name. You know how they (clap and chant Hercules in the movie "The Nutty Professor")? They said I was doing that. So that's how I got it. I've had it since I was born. Even though I don't look like Hercules.
You don't think you look like Hercules?
I got some muscles, but I've been named Hercules ever since I was born.
Is the "Sports Mommy" you retweet really your mom?
So she's actually my stepmom, but she's still my mom.
I've known her since I was 4 or 5 years old, so she's technically my stepmom, but she's my mom.
Do you ever get any gruff for being this big, tough football player who retweets his "sports mommy?"
Nah. ... Me and my stepbrother — my brother — we've been playing sports ever since I was 5 or 6 years old. So she's been around sports all my life. That's all she was doing, taking us to games, practices after work. She was around sports all the time, all year round. She's a sports mom. That's how she's been, she's the team mom every single year for every team — Little League, middle school, she's always been there. So she's the sports mom. Even in college with my stepbrother, she's always with them in South Carolina. She's always been dealing with sports.
She sounds like a remarkable woman.
What is your stepbrother's name?
Bryson Allen-Williams. He played at South Carolina years ago.
So which one of you is the better football player?
I'd say we're both pretty good. We both made it to a good level. Now I'm trying to make it to the next level, so I'd say we're both pretty good.
Did your dad play?
I mean, dad played at college and then he stopped playing in college.
So what's Thanksgiving like for your family, because that's a football holiday...
And you've got three football players in the family and Sports Mommy.
Everybody goes and eats and just watches football. But actually, we always had football games around that time. ... We were always playing sports. So (it wasn't until) high school you actually had a dinner to go to. ... Even when I'm here, I can't go back home for Thanksgiving, so I've been missing Thanksgiving meals, so that's going to be sad.
Is there a teammate you can hang out with? Adopt a family for Thanksgiving?
I actually got a Columbus family, I go to their house. Of course I hang around with teammates and their families, but as far as actually going home, I haven't been there in five years.
Who's this Columbus family you spend the holiday with?
When I went to my junior college, Blinn, I met them through my mentor at Blinn Collège. She actually died in 2018. I met them through her, so I feel like they're family now, too.
Why do you call her your mentor? What's her name, what role did she play in your life?
Miss Christy Young. It was a problem that I couldn't stay (at Blinn College) for a while because of my scholarship and things like that, so she actually worked all that out. And I was with her every single day because I was this close to not being there, and we built this connection so close. She always was there for me through the hard times and the good times. We built that real good connection, and then I got here and she obviously passed away. ... I actually missed a game that I went to her funeral because I felt she was so close to me. She was very special to me.
Yeah, she's actually on (my phone's) screensaver. I feel like she's always still with me, so I still think about her every day.
If you weren't a football player, what would you be doing?
I really care about people, so whatever job that is, just taking care of people just being there for people, I feel like that's what I would be doing, whatever job that is.
Is that why you graduated with a degree in family studies?
And I'm doing sociology right now, and that goes into different things too — lot of things I really want to try to get into after football.
What's the most fun you've ever had away from the football field?
Me and my best friend went on a cruise together, and I just got away from football. I really love cruises. I just love the water, even though I can't swim that good, I still love the water. I just go out there at nighttime and hear the water sounds. And me and my best friend are really close. His name is Labron (Morris). He played at an HBCU. We've been very close since middle school.
If you wrote a book, what would the title be?
It might be "Hercules." It's just been with me.
What do you think of the Disney movie then?
It's on my iPad, it's saved under Disney+ on my iPad. That's a classic, classic movie.
What's your favorite movie?
Hercules. And I know Marvel has been out, but I like Marvel. I like "The Croods." I'm trying to watch all the "Fast and Furious" movies.
You said you like to be helpful. What's the most helpful thing you've ever done?
In high school, I used to give out blankets and food and stuff. And food I don't eat here, it's like a lot of homeless people where I live at, I just drop off food all the time. And I talk to them sometimes and see how they are. I did it a lot in high school, and I'm kind of doing it now, here. It's just not online. I don't tweet that out.
Homelessness is an important issue to you?
It is. It is. When you see, you just want to help out.
You're a very sweet guy.
I'm just a big teddy bear basically.