Luke Jackson fights on, off field

Madeline Billeau, Staff Reporter [email protected]

Over the past four years, the Tulane football program has experienced enormous changes through the shifting from Curtin Johnson, who led the Green Wave from 2012 to 2015, to current head coach Willie Fritz.

Though defensive end Luke Jackson has been a member of the team throughout the team’s period of immense adjustments, he has faced an unparalleled set of challenges during his time at Tulane.

In November 2013, Jackson, then a true freshman, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After going through several tests and receiving the diagnosis, Jackson learned the cancer had begun to spread to other parts of his body.

“At that point, I found out, and then the exact same day, they told me I had to have surgery to remove [the tumor],” Jackson said. “From there, it was [chemotherapy].”

Jackson went through chemotherapy for nine weeks to kill the cancerous cells in his body. Before he could be declared cancer-free, the doctors had to perform one final surgery to remove lymph nodes that appeared cancerous.

“The last surgery was a real major surgery,” Jackson said. “…They removed the lymph nodes, and I was in the hospital for a week. That might’ve been the worst part, but it wasn’t too bad. The doctors did a very good job, and the team was supportive.”

Jackson had the support of friends, family, teammates and coaches throughout his treatment. In April 2014, he went into remission. Jackson received regular blood work afterward but has remained in remission ever since. From that point on, Jackson’s focus was getting back in shape and returning to the football field.

“After the surgery in April, I had to wait around for a few weeks, and then I was able to start summer workouts and kind of get back going,” Jackson said. “I lost 30 pounds and then gained it back. It was just a longer process than I would’ve thought, but I got back fairly quick.”

Jackson redshirted his freshman year and did not play the season following his remission in order to regain his strength and skill.

“I guess I took it more as building up to get to the next year, so I’m in shape,” Jackson said.

Jackson was ready to return to the field as a redshirt sophomore in fall 2015, making his collegiate debut in the home opener against Duke. Jackson totaled three tackles on the season, including a solo tackle versus University of Maine in a Green Wave victory. Now, as a redshirt junior, Jackson’s game is continuously improving. He has 11 tackles so far this season, including 3.5 tackles-for-loss.

“I’ve been pretty happy [with my performance this season],” Jackson said. “If I have to step up at defensive end … wherever they need me, that’s what I’m here for.”

Looking towards his future on the team, Jackson hopes to improve even more and has set high goals for next year, his last season of eligibility.

“Obviously [I want to] win and get to a bowl game and win big,” Jackson said. “I mean, we’ve been losing some tough ones but we’re gonna get there. We’re right there.”

Jackson endured much during his first year of college, but he never let his battle with cancer and the setbacks he faced keep him from football. His main goal was returning to the football field, and he was dedicated to improving his game after going through his hardships.

“I never thought I was going to have to not be able to play,” Jackson said. “I never thought about quitting. It just wasn’t in my mind.”