Ray Jackson, the leading rusher on Washington’s back-to-back Rose Bowl teams in 1959 and 1960, and later one of the school’s first African-American assistant coaches, died March 11 in Waco, Texas. He was 83.
Ray Jackson, the leading rusher on the Washington Huskies’ back-to-back Rose Bowl teams in 1959 and 1960, and later one of the school’s first African-American assistant coaches, died March 11 in his hometown of Waco, Texas. He was 83.
In an era that featured Husky legends Bob Schloredt, Don McKeta, George Fleming, Chuck Allen and Roy McKasson, among others, it is Jackson who is remembered as one of the best athletes of them all. At 5 feet 9 and 177 pounds, Jackson was a bruising fullback and a relentless linebacker, and he was single-handedly responsible for one of UW’s most memorable plays in Apple Cup history.
“Ray was the best back on the team. He really was,” McKeta, one of the Huskies’ star halfbacks, said Monday. “I’ve talked to some of my teammates and we’ve been reminiscing, and many of us feel he was the best outside linebacker to ever play that position. He was just that good.”
Jackson lettered in 1959 and ’60 and led the Huskies in rushing both seasons, finishing his career with 215 carries for 1,021 yards and eight touchdowns. His 4.8 yards per carry in 1959 ranked No. 1 in the Athletic Association of Western Universities (the precursor to the Pac-12 Conference) and he was a first-team all-conference selection in 1960.
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In the 1960 Apple Cup, Jackson blocked a last-second field-goal attempt by Washington State’s Mel Melin to secure the Huskies’ 7-6 victory, earning UW a return trip to the Rose Bowl.
“I got lucky,” Jackson said after the game. “I jumped up in the air, and there was the ball in my hands. I almost caught it.”
When he arrived at Washington in 1959, Jackson was 24 years old with a wife and four children.
In those days, NCAA rules did not allow scholarship athletes to have a job during the school year, but he found a way to hide it. Jackson needed to work to supplement the $95 per month provided by his scholarship, and working during the football season was particularly demanding.
“I’d work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and be on the field at 8 a.m. for practice,” Jackson said in a 1992 interview with The Seattle Times.
He slept when he could, between classes and team meetings.
Before coming to Seattle, Jackson spent three years in the Army. Stationed in Germany, he played on the All-Star European Football Team.
After two years at Bakersfield Junior College, where he earned All-America honors, he came to UW to play for coach Jim Owens. In 1959, the Huskies went 10-1 and beat No. 1 Wisconsin 44-8 in one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history. Jackson rushed 12 times for 61 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin.
In the Huskies’ return to Pasadena a year later, Jackson had 13 carries for 60 yards in a 17-7 victory over Minnesota.
A week before that game, backup fullback Joe Jones had to have an emergency appendectomy, meaning Jackson wound up playing just about every snap — on offense, defense and special teams — against Minnesota.
“The biggest and best game he had that I can recall was the second Rose Bowl,” McKeta said. “Ray stepped in and played both ways. In my mind, there were two MVPs in that Rose Bowl: Roy McKasson (UW’s center), who handled Minnesota’s big defensive line, and Ray Jackson, who played almost 60 minutes in that game.”
After earning his undergraduate degree at Washington, Jackson worked as a King County Deputy Sheriff.
He also served as a coach and board member of the Central Area Youth Association.
In 1971, Jackson became the second African-American assistant coach in program history when he joined Owens’ staff. Jackson remained in that role until 1976.
Jackson went on to become the budget director for Puget Power, retiring in 1998.