A Father Figure Appears
Prior to entering high school, the neighboring community's track coach, Dick Atchinson, asked Jackson to join their team. Atchinson would become Jackson's mentor at McArdory High School, serving as his coach in both track and football, and later becoming his guidance counselor. Here was the father figure Jackson lacked as a boy. In his autobiography, Jackson credits Atchinson as the person who made him the standout athlete he was. He writes that "I couldn't have become the human being I am without him."
At the end high school, the New York Yankees selected Jackson in the second round of the draft, but Jackson declined. His mother encouraged him to get a college degree, so in 1982 he entered Auburn University, where he went on to letter in baseball, football and track. He was the first athlete ever to do so.
After his junior year in school, Jackson was the ranked at the top of the list of eligible draftees for the Major League draft. Instead of entering, however, he chose instead to complete his final year of school. It would prove to be a wise decision. The next year in football he would earn All-Southeastern Conference running back honors (for the third straight year), be named an All-American, and would win the Heisman Memorial Trophy.