Ben Jackson

Numbers seem to be a good way to evaluate Benjamin Jackson, the outstanding running back and three-sport athlete at West Greene High School.

After all, what Jackson did on the football field was rush for 7,102 career yards, the most of any football player in Greene County history. As a senior last fall, Jackson ran for a mind-boggling 3,076 yards and scored 50 touchdowns. He was named the Observer-Reporter’s Football Player of the Year.

On the basketball court, Jackson averaged 13.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, which landed the senior forward on the O-R’s all-district third team.

And Jackson was poised to put up some big numbers on the baseball diamond for West Greene. After competing in track and field for several years, Jackson opted to switch to baseball last spring. In his first season of competitive baseball in five years, all Jackson did as the left fielder in the Pioneers’ lineup was produce a sterling .534 batting average.

All of those numbers are impressive. However, the number Jackson is most proud of, and says is the best figure to evaluate him by, is 3.96 – his grade-point average.

“A lot of people see the athlete side,” Jackson said, “and don’t really acknowledge the academic side. It’s hard to do both. It’s hard to be true student-athlete, but that’s something I take a lot of pride in. It has always been important in this household to be a straight-A student.”

Jackson’s athletic and academic accomplishments were why this week he was named one of the WPIAL’s James Collins Scholar-Athlete Award winners. Twenty individuals, 10 boys and 10 girls, were selected. Normally, the recipients are honored at a banquet. But the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of this year‘s banquet so the WPIAL is honoring the group on its website.

Jackson is one of three local student-athletes to be WPIAL scholarship winners. The others are South Fayette’s Hailey Poe and Carmichaels’ Kylie Sinn.

“I was surprised by this; I really was,” Jackson said. “I didn’t think I was going to get it.”

Jackson’s athletic and academic talents have led to an appointment to the United States Military Academy, where he will play football for the Cadets. Jackson is expected to report to West Point on June 29. Though Jackson is on a government appointment, he can accept the scholarship, which will go into an account for him.

“It will help because the Academy wants every incoming freshman to bring with them an iPad and a new laptop,” Jackson said.

With a goal of becoming an architect, Jackson said he will likely major in engineering.

“The Academy doesn’t have an architecture major so the next-best thing is an engineering major, probably civil engineering,” Jackson said.

Until then he reports to West Point, Jackson will concentrate on staying in shape – something than can be difficult in these trying times – and getting ready to adjust from civilian life to military life.

“Every incoming freshman is provided with a training program and guidelines for a diet,” Jackson said. “Training and staying in shape can be rough. I have a squat rack that I received for Christmas. I don’t have too many weights but my brothers and I make it work. If there is something that the Academy wants me to do in terms of weight-training and I’m not able to do it because I can’t get into a weight room, then I will do a workout that is designed for the same muscle group.”

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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