This week, Cal Poly football head coach Tim Walsh told the media there’s only one way to get on the field as a wide receiver for the Mustangs: You have to run block.
Perennially among the nation’s leading rushing teams since adopting the triple-option offense, Cal Poly receivers coach “Jim Craft does a really good job of teaching blocking,” Walsh said, “and if anybody watches out individual periods, the receivers, they don’t catch a pass for the first 10 or 15 minutes. They block, and they work on blocking. I think that sends a message.”
Junior receiver Roland Jackson Jr. received the message loud and clear. When he arrived on campus by way from San Diego’s Francis Parker High at just 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, Jackson said he really didn’t want to block.
He quickly realized he had to do what’s best for the team if he ever wanted to play.
“The coaching is great,” Jackson said. “I just get prepared well, and I just take what’s taught in the drills to the field. The key for me is just the will. It’s not about size. It’s about heart. I have the heart with the block.”
Three years later, Jackson hasn’t added any weight. In fact, he’s now listed officially at 150 pounds.
But Jackson has added plenty more strength if not girth.
As a freshman, Jackson was deadlifting about 200 pounds. Now, he’s lifting more than 400.
“One of the things about Roland that people don’t understand is, if you ask Chris Holder our strength coach, pound for pound he’s one of the strongest guys on our team,” Walsh said.
“His numbers aren’t going to look like” senior defensive tackle Chris Lawrence’s, Walsh said, “but for a 155- or a 160-pound guy, he’s strong. So, he’s stronger than he appears to be, and another thing you have to respect is his speed.”
Jackson leads the team with 169 yards receiving this season, even though his five catches rank him fourth on the team.
The lightweight speedster is averaging 33.8 yards per catch, mainly by running past defenders. He’s also been used as a weapon running the ball via reverse.
“Roland’s been a hard worker since he’s been here,” Walsh said. “He’s always had the toughness to block. His technique has improved in the blocking part of it, and his overall play and understanding of how to play the entire position has improved, too.”