Former Wildcat Jackson recieves scholarship

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 24, 2008


Sports Editor

At the forefront of Franklin Martin’s documentary “Walking on Dead Fish” about East St. John football in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was the story of senior team captain Stanley Jackson. The Wildcats’ tailback had his sights set on earning an athletic scholarship — one that gained importance when Stanley’s father lost his job in the storm’s aftermath.

But Jackson saw his playing time diminish with the emergence of fellow rusher and Brother Martin transfer Johnny Owen — and with it, the chances for a scholarship.

Flash forward three years. Jackson has earned that scholarship after all.

Martin presented the first scholarship of the newly established Katrina Wildcat Scholarship fund to Jackson, which will take care of Jackson’s tuition at Southern, where he currently attends as a sophomore.

Martin presented the full tuition scholarship — established by Martin and Dutchman Films as a means to award displaced players, or players with family members who have lost their homes and/or school, an opportunity to attend college on a scholarship — in the names of Billy and Stacy Ray. Billy Ray has been hired as the writer and director for the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of the documentary, and he and his spouse are contributors to the fund.

“It just means a whole lot,” said Jackson. “Once Franklin called me, I was touched by the whole situation. “To say, I’ll help you go to school, I’ll give you a scholarship, it just makes me want to go out and speak and help as many people as I can.”

He’s already doing that. The scholarship was presented to Jackson at the Prytania Theatre, where students from the Recovery School District —from Douglass, McDonogh 35, and Sarah T. Reed — screened Martin’s documentary. After each screening, Jackson and Martin spoke to the students about issues they may face, such as resolving differences, seeking a solid education, and dealing with peer pressure.

“Whether they see this film, or not, if I can talk to people and inspire them, it means a whole lot,” Jackson said. “To say that the kids look up to me, that actually inspires me to talk to even more people.”

Jackson, not that far removed from his own high school days, related his own experiences to the students, and even answered questions — from how he dealt with losing playing time, to just who was faster between he and Owen.

“He ran a 4.3, and I ran a 4.4 on the track,” Jackson said.

“But on the field,” he said with a smile, “my stride was longer. So that gave me the edge.”

Mainly, to the students, he stressed the value of education.

“I wanted to get that scholarship so bad when I was in high school,” Jackson told the students in attendance. “But my parents made me realize that football wasn’t everything. Because even if I got that scholarship and made it to the NFL, if I get hurt in that first game, what do I fall back on?

“So please, please get a good education. Believe me. I know how it is.”

Martin, who introduced Jackson to the Douglass students as “one of the best human beings I’ve ever met,” said that when the board that decided on the scholarship recipient met, there was little disagreement.

“He was the run away winner,” Martin said. “Unanimous.”

Martin says there will be a different recipient every year.

He also notes that when he started filming the documentary, he never realized what an avenue it would create to help others, be it awarding the scholarship, or speaking to the students and imparting whatever advice he could.

“I have a masters in education, and I’ve spoken at basketball clinics since I was 22,” Martin said. “Sports are good only if they teach you the values in life. To be able to integrate teaching, filmmaking, and working with kids, all the things I love the most…it’s been a blessing.”

As for Jackson, he’ll probably continue to reach out, and inspire.

And for a star of the big screen, he hasn’t even developed a big head.

“My family and my friends will ask me, ‘How do you stay so humble about it’?” he said. “The way I see it, being myself got me here. That’s all I know.”