Derek Dooley addresses Janzen Jackson's dismissal
The turbulent career of Janzen Jackson at Tennessee is over.
Less than two months since the junior safety returned to the program after leaving to deal with personal issues and 24 hours after Derek Dooley reiterated a zero-tolerance policy for him to stay in it, the Vols coach announced the dismissal of Jackson.
No specific reason was provided on Wednesday by Dooley. But multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly about it confirmed to the News Sentinel that Jackson dealt with substance abuse problems during his time with the Vols, which appear to have been a factor in his withdrawal from UT in the spring prior to his return in July.
Citing privacy laws, UT could not confirm nor deny an ESPN.com report that Jackson failed drug tests, but his status with the team clearly changed at some point following public comments Dooley made on Tuesday morning and an official statement released one day later.
"It was hard," Dooley said after Wednesday night's mock game at Neyland Stadium. "When you're a coach, when you're a parent, the toughest form of love is tough love. That's the hardest kind of love to dish out to a young person, it's tough love. As parents, we hate seeing our kids in pain, we hate seeing our kids cry and hurt, but sometimes that's an important part of their growth, the pain.
"Was it difficult? Yes. But my responsibility is to this organization, and my responsibility is to these young people. I think the decision we made was in the best interest of both."
Dooley spent plenty of time trying to allow Jackson to continue to be part of both groups, but regardless of all the support and the weekly meetings that produced a deep bond between the two, the relationship is no longer officially that of a coach and player.
Jackson spent time away from the program throughout spring and the first session of summer school dealing with undisclosed personal problems in hopes of coming back for another season with the program. And It looked like Jackson was going to get one as camp progressed, with positive reviews for his on-field performance from the coaching staff and Dooley also indicating he had been doing all the right things to stick around for the Vols.
That apparently changed quickly with a violation of the policy Dooley put in place for him, ending a career that included 23 games, 106 tackles and six interceptions as an invaluable weapon at the back of the UT defense.
"I don't want to get into the details of it," Dooley said. "I'd rather not. It's been a long drama. I'm still here for Janzen, and he knows it. He may not want me to be, but I'm there.
"Of course, I sat there and thought about a million things that maybe I could have done different (to help). At the end of the day, you do what you think is best and ultimately it's up to the young person to either follow your lead or choose not to."
Jackson is heading down a different road than originally planned when he spurned LSU at the last minute to sign with the Vols in 2009, and he's taking some impressive credentials with him.
And while his resume includes second-team All-SEC honors from the coaches as a sophomore and the same preseason honor from the media this summer, it also has multiple suspensions and a role in a highly publicized attempted armed robbery even though ultimately his charges were dropped.
"I think it was a warning that Coach Dooley is not playing," senior Tauren Poole said. "He's about his business, that if you're going to do something, you've got to think about this organization's reputation. You're representing something big, it's bigger than me, bigger than us, bigger than coach. This program is going to be here after us, and we've got to make sure we're doing it the right way.
"Guys that aren't doing that, he's going to get rid of them."