Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jackson Takes a New Direction Benefits of Football Part of Satan's Game Plan, Former Mu Back Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jackson Takes a New Direction Benefits of Football Part of Satan's Game Plan, Former Mu Back Says

Article excerpt

As a junior at Kirkwood High, Mark Jackson once ran the 40-yard dash in a preposterous 4.181 seconds.

"People are going to say there's no such thing," Kirkwood coach Dale Collier once said, "but I flat guarantee you he never ran over a 4.3."

It wasn't merely speed that made Jackson's future seem rich. His demeanor and devotion were standards Collier still holds before players.

"Of all the kids I've coached, Mark lived and breathed football the most - maybe too much," Collier said. "It was all-encompassing for him." THE GOOD NEWS

Since leaving Kirkwood, though, Jackson has had no compass.

Even those who knew him best see him as an exasperating riddle.

"Nobody can put a handle on it," a family friend said.

The summer before his freshman year at the University of Missouri, Jackson was married - unbeknownst to many, including some family. He has since had a child.

As a freshman at Mizzou, he was arrested twice in alcohol-related incidents. Those episodes left him on five years' probation and suspended from the team for a semester.

He withdrew from the 1993 spring semester, apparently overwhelmed by the death of his father - whom he had rarely seen in the 13 years his parents had been apart.

Now, Jackson, a fourth-year junior, says he has found stability and salvation: A day after being named MU's No. 1 tailback, he announced Wednesday he was quitting because football violates his religious beliefs.

"Bad associations spoil useful habits," said Jackson, a Jehovah's Witness.

It is not football, per se, that is incompatible with his faith; it is partaking in a "worldly" activity, fashioned by "the Wicked One."

"Satan is always transforming himself into an Angel of Light," Jackson said.

If some are duped by the apparent benefits of football, Jackson said it is all part of Satan's sham. As evidence, he reads aloud from: First John 2:15-17; John 17:14-16; First Corinthians 5:9-11; James 4:4; Matthew 6:19-21, 31 and Romans 12:2.

He talks of shunning revelers, abstaining from "showy displays of one's means" and doing the perfect work of God.

"You look at football, and what does it bring?" he said. "It brings large parties to campus, and what does that bring? Drunkenness and fornication."

Not to mention billions of dollars generated by the sport.

"And we know that money is the root of all evil," he said.

Not to mention the risk of mingling with college-aged men.

"It's a bad association," he said. "The Bible says you shouldn't even sit down and eat with such persons."

Those dire conditions preclude him from trying to stem the tide as a role model. No one would be moved to emulate him; they would aspire only to do what he does on the field.

"Jesus didn't play sports," he said. "Satan offered him the entire Earth, but Jesus chose not to be on top. . . . That tells you right there that God doesn't need the help of an organization to preach the Good News." GENESIS

Jehovah's Witnesses hold that Armageddon is imminent.

"Since 1914, we've been living in the last days of this system," said Marvin Littlepage, presiding overseer of a Columbia congregation.

They believe 144,000 people will go to Heaven, they interpret the Bible literally and avoid participation in secular government, which they perceive as diabolically inspired.

They do not specifically denounce football, said Littlepage, whose congregation occasionally plays touch football without keeping score. However . . .

"We do show (congregationalists) the dangers of what they're doing," Littlepage said, "but we don't try to make them feel guilty or anything."

Jackson was raised a Jehovah's Witness.

"It's all he's ever known," says his mother, Bettye.

But Jackson said he had not been active in the movement from the age of 12 until this spring. …

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