IOWA CITY – Mike Hart left early with an injury. Max Martin lost control of the football on his first carry and never returned. Kevin Grady played well, but didn’t display the field vision his coaches would’ve liked.

So with 11:10 left in Saturday’s game at Kinnick Stadium and the Wolverines trailing 14-10 on their own 12-yard line, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr gave the ball to fourth-string running back Jerome Jackson. With the Hawkeyes in a Cover-2 defense, quarterback Chad Henne handed off to the junior, who proceeded to run into the center of the line. But Jackson didn’t go down as expected. Instead, he popped out from the heavy traffic and raced downfield for a 19-yard gain.

Carr would ride his reserve runner for the rest of the fourth quarter and overtime. When all was said and done, Jackson had carried the ball on 11 of the Wolverines’ last 16 offensive snaps. By the time the Saginaw native plunged across the goal line to score the game-winning, one-yard touchdown in overtime, Jackson had accumulated 44 yards on 11 attempts in less than 15 minutes of work.

Ironically, Carr and running backs coach Fred Jackson were nearly stripped of Jerome Jackson’s talents after last season.

Jackson was relegated to backup duty behind Chris Perry during his freshman year, but he showed promise, picking up 187 yards on a team-leading 6.4 yards per carry. In his sophomore campaign, Jackson started twice but gained just 90 yards on 32 carries in four games. Hart’s emergence was the primary reason for his reduced role. Facing the possibility of being buried on the bench for the remainder of his college career, Jackson considered transferring. But he was convinced otherwise after speaking with Carr in the offseason.

“Jerome came in at one point after (last) year,” Carr said. “I said, ‘You know, Jerome, there’s a place here for you because there’s things that you can do. The competition is going to be great, but my own advice to you is this: Where could you transfer to get the degree that you would get at Michigan? In the long run, that’s why you came here in the first place.’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t want to leave.’ And he stayed.”

Jackson grew up fantasizing about playing at Michigan. Despite the disappointment with his position on the depth chart, Jackson found it difficult to acknowledge the possibility of playing elsewhere.

“I always wanted to come here,” Jackson said. “For me to lose my goal, to lose my dream by transferring somewhere else, that was impossible. So I just stayed. – (Carr) gave me the confidence. And as you can see, (the coaches) believed in me today and put me in there, so I have to thank them.”

Rush linebacker LaMarr Woodley, a teammate of Jackson’s at Saginaw High School, never doubted that Jackson would take advantage of his chance when the time came.

“It didn’t shock me at all,” Woodley said of his longtime friend’s inspiring play. “We’ve been playing together since seventh grade. Stuff happens. When the opportunity comes, you have to learn to take advantage of it. And that’s what he did. When the opportunity came today, he probably wasn’t expecting it. But it came, and he ran with it.”

Jackson found himself on the field Saturday due largely to Fred Jackson’s persistence. The latter Jackson has consistently lobbied Carr to play the junior, and his pleas didn’t fall on deaf ears against Iowa.

“Fred has always had a lot of confidence in Jerome Jackson, and I think his confidence really paid off,” Carr said. “Fred kept saying, ‘Let’s go with Jerome.’ And I’m glad that he kept saying, ‘Put him in.’ Because that was the difference, I think. Nobody in that (locker room) is ever going to forget what Jerome Jackson did today.”

When Jackson found himself in the huddle with Michigan one yard away from victory in the extra session, the play call dictated a run. Jackson and his teammates never doubted that the Wolverines would come away with a touchdown.

“I just looked up to the skies, I just asked God to give me some strength,” Jackson said. “I knew my linemen were going to do their jobs. I knew they were going to give me a great push. They said in the huddle, ‘We’re going to get you in here, Jackson.’ I believed in them. They believed in me.”

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