Less than a week after he was dismissed from Tennessee, Janzen Jackson is back home and playing football again.
Jackson, the standout safety whose off-the-field issues overshadowed a promising career with the Vols, has enrolled at McNeese State, a Football Championship Subdivision school in his hometown of Lake Charles, La., the school announced late Friday.
In a statement, Jackson expressed gratitude to McNeese State for allowing him to continue his football career along with forgiveness for how his time at UT came to an end.
"I would like to thank McNeese for giving me the opportunity to come back home and continue my education and football career," Jackson said. "I would also like to apologize to my family, friends and the University of Tennessee for the mistakes I have made.
"I realize how fortunate I am to get a second chance and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead."
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley dismissed Jackson on Wednesday for undisclosed reasons.
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. That appeared to have been a factor when he withdrew from UT in February before ultimately returning in July.
It had nothing to do with what Jackson could do on the field, as he played in 23 games, racked up 106 tackles and six interceptions while serving as the "eraser" on the back end of UT's defense.
McNeese State coach Matt Viator said he consulted with Jackson to "be sure that he was interested in his education." Viator said his close ties to Jackson's dad, Western Kentucky defensive coordinator Lance Guidry, factored into his decision to give Jackson yet another chance.
"He assured me he was and that was one of the reasons he wanted to come back here," Viator said in the university's statement. "He's also a very good player, obviously, and he will be able to help us in that aspect.
"I'm hoping that it makes all the difference for Janzen. There's no question that we're trying to help the young man. I think that he is sincere in wanting a second chance. Not only that but I think that he's sincere in wanting to be a part of this program."
Depending on how quickly he picks up the Cowboys' defensive schemes, Jackson could be ready for the team's home opener Sept. 17, Viator said.
"We watched him grow up and have seen some of the really good qualities that he has," Viator said. "Obviously he's made some mistakes. He has an opportunity now to come home and get a second chance. We decided to give him that opportunity."