Welcome to history, Justin Jackson.
The senior running back broke Northwestern’s all-time rushing yards record against Maryland on Saturday with a four-yard carry. The run pushed his career total past Damien Anderson’s 4485 career yards, racked up from 1997 to 2000.
Jackson’s career at Northwestern has been nothing short of spectacular, even if he’s spent much of it out of the national spotlight. He’s been one of the most consistent performers over the past three-and-a-half seasons and one of the most reliable running backs in college football history.
His journey into immortality started in 2014, when as a true freshman, Jackson debuted for Northwestern against Cal. He quickly gained control of a crowded backfield, with his first 100-yard game coming against Wisconsin. In an upset of the top-25 Badgers, Jackson put in yeoman’s work, registering 33 carries for 162 yards.
It was just a preview of what was to come, for both his inaugural season and beyond. Jackson carried the ball at least 22 times in six of the remaining seven weeks following the Wisconsin game, recording at least 96 yards in all six of those games. He had 149 and a touchdown in Northwestern’s memorable win over Notre Dame and 130 plus two touchdowns in a season-ending loss to Illinois. He finished the year with 1187 yards on 245 carries.
In his sophomore year, Jackson had no competition for carries in the backfield but he did have a new mate back there: redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson. Though Thorson struggled, Northwestern won 10 games thanks to an outstanding defense and a truly incredible year from Jackson. He started the year with 134 yards on the ground in an upset against Stanford. He set a new career high with 184 yards on the ground against Ball State and then broke his own record with 186 yards against Penn State six weeks later. He finished the year with 1418 yards on 312 carries, putting his career total at 2605.
Jackson continued to shoulder a inconceivably large load in his third year. He set a new career high with 188 yards on the ground in a wild 54-40 win at Michigan State, one of three games with 170 yards or more in the regular season, but saved his best for last. Facing a stout Pitt run defense, Jackson simply shredded the Panthers for 224 yards, winning Pinstripe Bowl MVP honors. With 1524 yards as a junior, Jackson headed into his senior season 4129 career rushing yards.
If he stays healthy, Jackson will also break the school records for rushing attempts, all-purpose yards, rushing touchdowns, touchdowns by a non-QB and most plays. Throughout the entire process, Jackson has remained incredibly humble, constantly deflecting praise to teammates and coaches.
But it’s his name and his name alone that now stands atop record books.