LINCOLN — Scary. In a good way.
This isn’t a description DaiShon Neal gives out commonly about anyone, let alone a guy he works with during defensive-line drills. But it’s how the Omaha Central graduate sees Damian Jackson, a 25-year-old freshman walk-on and former Navy SEAL whose no-nonsense demeanor has drawn the praise of coaches and teammates alike since he arrived in the spring.
“He’s a real quiet guy,” Neal said. “That’s what makes him scary — you never know what he’s thinking.”
Neal told a story following Tuesday’s practice about the close bond the two formed during the summer. A 6-foot-7, 275-pound sophomore who needed pushing during runs, Neal gravitated toward the 6-1, 245-pound Jackson, who perpetually seemed to be going full speed.
“He was always there,” Neal said. “When I was feeling on the brink of passing out or just trying to quit, he was always like, ‘C’mon, you got this.’ He’s really good.
“He’s a good symbol for our defensive line because he’s been through war, he’s been through it all. He lost a best friend and he’s able to just push through it every day and work every day. He doesn’t complain. He just takes what he’s given and he just goes through it every day. That’s how I think everybody should be.”
Neal played in nine games as a defensive end and on special teams last year, recording two total tackles. From his vantage point with the second unit this fall, he said Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas are other true freshmen who could see the field in 2017.
But Jackson? He stands out in an even more unusually positive way.
“Nobody’s going to try to test that man,” Neal said. “I know that for sure.”