The Tragic Case of Janzen Jackson

By Alex Norman

You are Janzen Jackson… you have been charged with murder.

There was a time when you were one of the nation’s top football recruits for the Class of 2009, out of Barbe High School in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Rivals.com says you run a 4.43 40.  You are a 5-star prospect.

For almost 12 months you have been committed to LSU, the home state school only a year removed from a national championship.

But on National Signing Day 2009 you shocked almost everyone by deciding to switch your commitment to Tennessee, with its young coach, Lane Kiffin, and the brash attitude he and the rest of his staff brought to Knoxville.

“Coach (Lane) Kiffin and Coach (Ed) Orgeron were pumped,’’ Jackson said to Volquest.com in February 2009.  “I actually told them that Tennessee was where I wanted to be when I visited up there, but it’s hard to leave home with your family and friends.  I just felt in my heart that Tennessee was where I wanted to be and I didn’t think I would be happy if I didn’t follow my heart.’’

You started 9 games at safety for the Vols during that freshman season in 2009, living up to the high expectations.

But that freshman season was marred by an incident in November, when you and two teammates were arrested on charges of attempted armed robbery at a Pilot convenience store on Cumberland Avenue.

Nu’Keese Richardson and Mike Edwards would be kicked off the team, but when charges were dropped against you by the Knoxville Police Department, your legal problems were a thing of the past.

For the time being.

Kiffin and the coaching staff left town a few weeks later, and in walked a coach that proved to have and more lax disciplinary practices, Derek Dooley.

You started all 12 regular season games during that sophomore season, and you were named to the Coaches’ All-SEC Second Team.

But behind the scenes the ship was sinking.  You battled substance-abuse and failed multiple drug tests (according to numerous media reports). You still were allowed to play in the Music City Bowl. You withdrew from Tennessee in the spring of 2011 due to “personal issues.” You were given chance after chance to turn things around, but on the eve of the 2011 season, Dooley finally kicked you off the team.

“Our program has devoted a tremendous amount of energy, resources, support, and care in an effort to help Janzen manage his personal challenges,” said Dooley. “I will always be there to help him as a person, but there comes a time when a player’s actions preclude him from the privilege of playing for the University of Tennessee football team. Although I’m disappointed with this outcome, we will never compromise the long-term organizational values and goals we maintain here at Tennessee.”

Your NFL dreams were now in jeopardy, and you ended up at McNeese State, the school where your Dad is an assistant coach.  You were there for one year, and decided to turn pro.

The New York Giants saw all that potential, and signed you to a free-agent deal when you fell out of the 2012 NFL draft.  You were cut by the Giants in August 2012.

You gave the Canadian Football League a shot in 2013, and played five games for the Toronto Argonauts before they released you.

Your football career appeared to be over.

And now the rest of your life could be spent behind bars.

According to the Los Angeles Register, you’ve been in a jail cell since September 16, 2013, and you have now been charged with the murder of your mother’s boyfriend.

You’ve pled not guilty. Prosecutors say you strangled Frank Herrera to death on September 11, 2013, leaving his body in the back of a car.

Your mother testified that you had been suffering from mental issues.

When you arrived in Knoxville five years ago your future was bright… a future filled with money and fame.

Today, your future is in doubt…

And your life story is a tragic one…

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