Dreams do come true.
Just ask Dan Jackson, if you’re still not a believer.
On Monday, the walk-on from North Hall High, who barely had Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart’s attention when he entered the program, finished the 2021 season as a key contributor in its 33-18 national championship victory against No. 1 Alabama in Indianapolis.
“It’s been a crazy, crazy ride,” said Jackson, who played in all 15 games this season and had a hand in 40 tackles.
On the game-clinching interception return by Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, Jackson had one of the most notable hits.
After running the ball back on the 79-yard return, Jackson collided full speed with Alabama wide receiver Agiye Hall at the 5-yard line, ensuring Ringo would make the end zone untouched.
After that play with only a minute left to play, it was time for the celebration to begin.
And not many people can relate to Jackson’s experience, part of a Bulldogs team that snapped a 41-year championship drought, but he’s made more fans than he’ll ever be able to know.
Jackson bet on himself to be able to make it on the field with the Bulldogs, even though nobody even knew his name when he entered the program in the fall of 2019.
From the beginning, Jackson always wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog.
He’s done much, much more than that.
It’s been a constant celebration for Jackson and all his teammates since they got back to Athens on Tuesday afternoon.
While other players have been the center of the national attention, including quarterback Stetson Bennett IV and too many stars on defense to mention them all, Jackson is content with being a hometown hero for the fans in Gainesville.
Plus, Jackson’s got two more years of eligibility remaining, so his work will begin soon on preparing for the 2022 campaign.
But for a moment, it will be time to cut loose and have a good time.
When the national championship game wrapped up, Jackson said what he’ll remember most is hugging all his teammates he went to battle with every day as red and black confetti fell from the ceiling of Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It was just a surreal experience,” Jackson said. “It was something we fought for all season, and it came true.”
Once the team plane arrived back in Atlanta, Jackson finally had phone service and could see pictures of the crowd swelling in Athens, in anticipation for the team buses to pull back into town.
He said roughly 5,000 Georgia fans were there in Athens, cheering and barking loudly, as they emptied off the charter buses.
The icing on the cake for Georgia’s championship celebration will be a parade down Lumpkin Street to Sanford Stadium for a celebration between the hedges on Saturday.
According to a media release Friday from the University of Georgia Sports Communications, no more tickets are available for the event.
Jackson’s best memory of the 2021 season took place right there at Sanford Stadium, blocking a punt against Arkansas that was recovered by one of his teammates in the end zone for a touchdown.
Later in the basketball season, Jackson will be recognized at a North Hall basketball game.
He said a date has not been solidified with Trojans athletics director Sam Borg.