Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Monticello senior Shane Jackson has made a remarkable recovery from a torn ACL in his right knee just 10 months ago. Not only is he running track this spring, he’s setting records and dominating his events.
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO April 26, 2013 Little more than five months removed from experimental knee surgery stemming from a freak injury suffered at a high-school football showcase last year, Shane Jackson's athletic career is quite literally back on track.
So far this spring, the Monticello senior is dominating the competition in several track and field running events, helping the Panthers to their fourth straight Division title. He set a school record in the 200 last week, hitting the tape in 22 seconds flat.
Jackson had been the only starting quarterback the now five-year-old Monticello football program has ever known. Just an eighth grader when Monticello reinstated its football program with a modified team after many decades without, Jackson assumed the reins at quarterback and quickly opened eyes. A natural pocket passer with great vision and the ability to take off on defenses when the pocket breaks down, Jackson passed for more than 900 yards his junior year while also rushing for more than 900 yards. He finished his junior year with 2,272 total yards, 24 touchdowns, and 37 tackles on defense, to boot.
Those numbers drew interest from several Division 1 schools including Fordham University, Monmouth, Stony Brook, Princeton and the University of New Hampshire. It was at the latter school during a prospect showcase in July that misfortune struck.
During a backpedaling drill, Jackson suffered what Monticello head football coach Matt Buddenhagen would call a "disastrous" injury.
As Jackson described it, "I tried to turn my body for the drill but my cleat caught in the turf. My body continued in motion, but my foot was stuck in the turf."
With a completely torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his right knee, Jackson's senior year of football would never happen, and those schools courting him suddenly disappeared.
With his initial prognosis removing him from competition in any and all sports for anywhere from 8-12 months, Jackson was understandably devastated.
Never one to sit on his laurels, Jackson and his family sought a second opinion, consulting a Long Island surgeon who specializes in highly skilled athletes. The news was similar, the prognosis wasn't. Though Jackson had indeed completely torn his ACL, the specialist offered a different kind of surgery, one that potentially would have Jackson back in action in as little as four months. In mid-September, Jackson went under the knife.
In an interview last August, Jackson said, "We'll see what happens with the surgery and move from there. I'm hoping to at least be able to get back for outdoor track by March or April."
Just like his acute vision on the field, Jackson saw his future perfectly. He’s made a full recovery, running sprints in February and now running track. St. Anselm College in New Hampshire thought enough of his progress and recovery to offer him a full athletic scholarship to play football this fall.
This spring, he has been running with a purpose for a talented Monticello track squad also coached by his football coach and mentor, Buddenhagen.
Helping lead the Panthers to an early 5-0 record after an easy win at home against Liberty on Wednesday, Jackson runs the 100, 200, 4x100 and the 4x400 events for the Panthers. Prior to Wednesday he had only lost lost meaning he did not place first in the event one race. Jackson recalls last week's meet at Port Jervis as one of the many highlights for him this season. "It meant a lot to me to be able to break our school's records in the 200 at 22 seconds flat last week. That's something I'll never forget."
Jackson was torn between running track and playing baseball this spring, a sport he has excelled at since an early age and played for Monticello through his junior season. His customary repertoire of sports begins with football in the fall, indoor track in the winter and baseball in the spring.
This year, though, Jackson and his coaches had some concerns. "I really wanted to play baseball again this season, but I think I made the right choice considering the circumstances," offered Jackson. "Track and field is good for me as far a regaining my leg strength. Kind of like a continuation of my rehab and my coaches all suggested I would better avoid aggravating the knee injury by not playing baseball this season."
A force on the local sport's scene from an early age; at just 13-years old Jackson beat out dozens of athletes from several different counties in the Hudson Valley to become one of 71 male and female athletes nationwide to compete in the prestigious United States Jr. Olympic Skills Competition in Chicago. The then seventh grader, offered back then, "That's the nice thing about athletics, you can always work harder and do better." Qualifying for the national competition, in-part, with a two-legged broad jump of 8-feet, 10 inches, young Jackson would also set the bar rather high for himself back then, saying, "I would like to have a jump of more than nine feet."
Today Jackson's words seem eerily prescient, as he's not only worked extremely hard at athletics, he's also gotten better each and every year.
Also a force in the classroom, Jackson was inducted into the National Honor Society in the spring of 2008 and was an active member of the National Young Leaders State Conference (NYLSC), which recognizes and honors elite middle school students throughout the state for their scholastic achievement and leadership potential.
Currently carrying a 92 average, Jackson ranks in the top 15% of his class and looks forward to resuming his football career next fall for St. Anselm College.
"I just can't wait to get back out there," says Jackson. "It was literally painful to watch our games this season, not because they didn't do well without me, but because I wanted nothing more than to be out there with my teammates. I can't wait to play football again."
Perhaps Buddenhagen described Jackson best.
“I have to say it’s been the ultimate pleasure to be able to not just coach but to also mentor such an outstanding young man. It's not just sports for Shane as he's just an amazingly well-rounded kid, academically first, then as a person in the community and finally as the great athlete he is. He's been nothing short of a role model and an inspiration to a lot of the younger kids at the school. I see a very bright future for Shane. The sky's the limit."