Bringing the pain

After once considering a modeling career as a child, the towering 6’3″ senior defensive end chose the life of dirty cleats and practice jersey’s, instead of posing in front of the camera. Raised in a strict household right outside of Galveston bay in La Marque, Texas, Ed Jackson decided at a young age that football was his calling in life.

“I had a modeling contract when I was little, to be honest I liked the modeling thing because I got attention and I was the only child.” said Jackson, while slightly laughing about it. “I started playing football in the fourth grade, and I fell in love with it. I really didn’t have time for modeling anymore,” explained Jackson.

With the help of his older cousin who was an outstanding wide receiver, Jackson fell in love with the gridiron. Although modeling and athletics seems like an unlikely combination, Jackson stuck with being active in sports playing basketball, as well as running track.

Number 99 suiting up for the orange and white chose the right path. Dedicating his time solely towards athletics paid off. In high school Jackson received numerous personal accolades as a La Marque High school cougar, playing in the Texas All-Star game, receiving all district honors and was a Houston Touchdown Club Defensive “Player of the Year” finalist.

“My high school career was good; I got a lot of individual awards which is good, but I always wanted the State Championship,” said Jackson.

Playing football after high school was never in question, but who we would play for was the biggest inquiry, coming close to suiting up in the red and white as a cougar. “Coach Norton (Recruiting coach in 2002) had canceled other meetings to stay and watch our high school sports banquet to talk to me and my folks about sending me on a recruiting trip up to Huntsville because I had already a verbal commitment to U of H.” said Jackson. “But after talking to Coach Norton, he told me straight up that I’ll be able to play that next year.”

In February of 2002, Jackson signed his letter of intent to become a Bearkat and has made an impact ever since. Jackson racked up 67 tackles and four sacks his freshman year. He came back strong in the 2005 season picking up a career high five sacks and ranked second in tackles for a loss with 12 stops totaling 76 yards.

With an injury to key Bearkat defender sideling a 2006 Pre-Season All Southland Conference selection David Branch, Jackson has answered the call to pick up the slack by leading the entire defensive line in sacks in his senior season heading into conference play.

As a fifth year senior and having already received a degree in general business this summer, Jackson is comfortable being one of the seniors anchoring the defensive line.

“It feels good. We are just trying to win one game at a time because I know we all want to win the conference championship,” said Jackson. “I think what a lot of seniors want to do is to set a winning tradition for up coming Bearkats,” said Jackson, in an effort to leave his mark on the team.

Perseverance is the key to any success in life; without it many people fail to reach their goals, which often leads to a different destiny. For senior defensive lineman Brandon Villanueva, his career at SHSU would have been short lived, returning back to the Hill country of central Texas without it.

“Number one struggle was being homesick,” said Villanueva. “My whole life I grew up in one house- one town until I was 18. I didn’t know anything outside of that box.” Facing the troubles of finding his identity on the team, Villanueva got some guidance from his mom and coaches. “I had coaches calling me like a dad would because I grew up with a single parent with my mom. I remember my mom talked to one of my coaches, and he called me telling me there is no way he was going to let me quite,” explained Villanueva how coaches can be helpful off the field as well on the field.

Toughing it out in Huntsville receiving a college education and playing football was the best thing for the general business major. Growing up about 30 minutes east of Austin, in the small town of Webberville, was where 74 for the Bearkats was introduced to football by his older brother.

“He always to this day takes credit for where I’m at today, and I give him credit because if it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be as athletic and competitive as I am,” expressing how big a role model his older brother was in achieving his goals.

Although he did not begin playing organized football until his eigth grade year, Villanueva became an immediate impact on his team and his success continued on to his high school career. Villanueva was an All-District selection as both a defensive lineman and offensive lineman, along with being crowned as District 25-4A Defensive “Player of the Year” for the Del Valle High School Cardinals. His tenacity on the field helped lead Del Valle to their first playoff appearance in over 30 years in 2002.

His hard work in high school paid off; while he was also a state recognized power lifter and a track & field star, he chose the football scholarship route over any other sport.

Now as a senior anchoring the interior defensive line, Villanueva looks back feeling blessed to be in this position, when at first being homesick and not wanting to be in Huntsville. “It’s amazing. I remember when I would sit outside on the benches thinking to my self I don’t know how I am going to make it through all this, and I look back now and here I am,” said the three year letterman. “As a senior I am looked upon to be a role model and be a leader to the younger guys. I try to work hard and lead by example.”

With graduation in sight, Villanueva sees the light at the end of the tunnel but would like to end his football career on a positive note. Tied for the lead in sacks amongst interior defensive lineman and making his presence felt totaling up 13 tackles for the season so far, Villanueva plans on continuing his success through out conference play in an attempt to make the playoffs.

“In 2004 we were one game away from playing in the National Championship game. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, and I would love the opportunity to go back.”

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