Vick drives Firebirds on field and off
JyRonn Brinkley | Special to The Enterprise
Southern Nash’s Jackson Vick (26) takes off on a long run during a game against Franklinton on Oct. 29 at Firebird Stadium.
More than just the latest flavor in Southern Nash’s seemingly endless supply of star running backs, Jackson Vick proved to be indispensable in his curtain call for the Firebirds in 2021.
The N.C. State University signee will play defensive back for the Wolfpack but Vick truly sparkled on offense and special teams this fall for the Firebirds on his way to The Wilson Times Ironman of the Year honor.
Vick, who was the Times Offensive Player of the Year last spring and the only three-time selection on this season’s Times All-Area team, harkened back to some advice he got from former Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster in proclaiming this honor as “really a blessing.”
“My coach, Coach Foster, taught me earlier when I was a freshman that the best players, they never come off the field,” Vick said. “So just trying to be that both-ways player for my team and just trying to do everything for my team just really helped me get that mentality.”
Beyond doing everything on the field, Vick also was the leader the Firebirds needed off the field as well, said first-year head coach Brian Batchelor.
“I just told him early in the summer there that what was going to drive our team was how much leadership and unselfishness we could get,” Batchelor said. “I told that to the whole team but I think he took it super personal. And not only was he our best offensive or defensive or special teams player, but he was the best leader that we’ve had here in a long time.”
Vick, who intends to graduate early from Southern Nash and enroll at N.C. State for the spring 2022 semester, has a future on the defensive side of the line but he looked like a natural running back for the Firebirds. Vick ran for 1,211 yards and 16 Tds, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. A three-year starter – albeit one shortened to six games - at wingback, Vick finished his career with 3,232 rushing yards for an 8.4 average. That was comparable to his immediate predecessors and former teammates — Zonovan “Bam” Knight and Quinton Cooley — in the Firebirds backfield.
“Jackson’s really a defensive player that played offense for us to help our team,” Batchelor said. “So to me, kind of where he made his mark or made himself different from those guys was how unselfish he was and how much he did to help our team over his four years. … Heck, I wish we could have a running back like him every year but that’s not his natural position, his natural position as a DB or a wide receiver type guy, but he did what we needed him to do to help our team and that’s the thing I think that’s so cool about him is that goes unnoticed, and everybody just sees his yards, touchdowns and all this but they don’t realize that he’s a much better defensive player.”
For Vick, he just liked being a football player.
“My mentality is just keep going. Keep trying to make plays for your team,” he said. “And I really do enjoy actually playing both ways because really you get to see everything. Every single position on the field really. And on defense, I feel like I can shut down one side of the field either playing at outside linebacker or corner. So I feel like it’s just really a good thing for me.”
Vick also scored TDs on a punt return and a kickoff return and, even though he played sparingly on defense early in the season, his impact was evident as the year progressed.
“Actually, the beginning of the season, the reason he didn’t play as much defense was us trying to manage his body,” Batchelor said. “I mean, with the way COVID was, he played basketball, went straight into football, and then straight back into football in the summer. And so we were just trying to kind of manage his body at the beginning of the year, but once we got to middle part of conference only, he played a whole lot of football for us and contributed in, like I said, any way possible you can imagine.”
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