WEST POINT — A sheet remains hanging from a window of Bradley Barracks.
Written on the sheet in black marker is a heart. The number two forms the right side of the heart followed by an eight. Brandon Jackson, who wore No. 28 for Army’s football team, is still in the thoughts of the Corps of Cadets.
Jackson is being remembered as more than a football player at West Point. The sophomore died in a single-car accident Sunday morning in Croton.
“When you are part of an organization that represent a much larger group of people, which we are fortunate to do here, everything that we do is a reflection on the group whether it be our professional conduct in the Corps, academics, what we do on the field,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “Brandon did all of those things really well. He was a great cadet. He was a good student. He was a good football player and he represented this program in a way that I want all of our guys to represent this program.”
Cleats clacked against the pavement as Army football players sprinted up to Howze Field just before 4 p.m. Tuesday. Players stretched while a hip-hop song played in the background. In unison, players sang the word “Work.”
The Black Knights went back to work for the second straight day, preparing for Saturday’s road game at UTEP without their starting cornerback.
Whistles blew. Shoulder pads clashed. Wide receivers and cornerbacks battled for passes hanging in the air. Coaches coached.
Monken met with leaders of his team Monday afternoon. He asked them how they wanted to move on after the tragic news of Jackson’s death. It was the team's call.
Players decided that they wanted to practice Monday and were “adamant” about playing this week’s game.
“Today, I thought was really good,” cornerbacks coach ShaDon Brown said. “I thought we had good energy. I thought the guys came out here and it became football and fun again. It gave us a chance to clear our heads for a two-and-half-hour period and do the things that we love to do and try to represent our fallen brother the way that he performed out here on the field.”
Practice is “therapeutic” for the players, Monken said earlier in the day during his press conference. The team is “reeling” from Jackson’s death. They need each other and the brotherhood that they forged to rally around.
“The team is truly a family and we’re uplifting each other,” Brown said. “Players are uplifting myself, and us as coaches are trying to do the same for the players. They are doing a good job coming out here and trying to compete and getting ready for UTEP on Saturday.”
Players will continue to work toward the program’s first 3-0 start since 1996. Monken said the best way to honor Jackson “is by the way that we play and the way we conduct ourselves in everything that we do.”
"Obviously, there’s a great deal of hurt and there’s going to be when someone you love is taken from you,” Monken said. “As I said before about this team, I thought you’ll see this team respond, not just react. There’s a difference between those two things. That’s what impresses me about these young men and all the cadets here is that they find a way to respond.”