Jackson brings humor to broadcast

Saturday, October 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ Late in the first quarter, from the Alabama 10, Robby Hampton dropped back.

``Here's a throw out in the flat again to Adam Daily. Daily at the 5. Daily, touchdown Arkansas.''

Then, Paul Eells added, ``He scoooorrres.''

Eells' first-year color man, Keith Jackson, broke up. ``It just blew his mind,'' Eells said. ``He gave me a big old high-five. He got giddy about it.''

Eells' knockoff of soccer announcer Andres Cantor's call was Jackson's idea a couple of hours before the kickoff, evidence of Jackson's approach combining humor and insider knowledge on the Razorbacks' football broadcasts.

The former All-Pro replaced Rick Schaeffer, who left the university this year. Jackson had worked on Oklahoma's football network, plus TV for TNT and Fox Sports Network. He could have worked for Fox again, but called and canceled because he wanted to see his 15-year-old son play football on Friday nights.

A day later, Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles phoned about the Razorback job.

``He said, I'd love to have you as my designated putter,'' Jackson said, laughing. ``That's an inside joke. I had made a 30-foot eagle putt and we won the golf tournament. I can't play a lick. He had carried me all day. But, he said he needed me as a designated putter.''

When Jackson mentioned his son's ball games, Broyles said, ``This is Saturdays.''

Once a week, Jackson travels from Little Rock to Fayetteville to prepare for the upcoming game. He talks to almost every coach and watches a film of the opponent's previous game.

On game day, he's armed with a folder, filled with a three-deep roster _ complete with notes _ stats about various players and his own scouting report.

He said a boss at Fox hammered home, ``Always have more information than you can use'' and ``You never know who is going to have a big game.''

The quips come easily. After Cedric Cobbs made a scintillating touchdown run against Alabama, Jackson said: ``He needs to change his name from Cedric Cobbs to Cedric Cobbler because that was one sweet move he just put on that guy.''

Arkansas trailed Alabama 21-20 with minutes to play when Hampton was incomplete on fourth down. Then, came a late flag against Alabama for defensive holding and an automatic first down.

``If you've got a pacemaker, you had better sit down,'' Jackson said.

After Arkansas missed a tackle in the backfield, Jackson said Alabama running backs ``should start wearing a sign, `Slippery when wet.'''

``This has been a wet game whether you were out in the rain getting wet or you were sweating,'' Jackson said.

Too often, Arkansas officials had trouble with the scoreboard clock against Georgia, a week after the Alabama game. Eells pointed out that the officials wanted it set at 2:55 and that it showed 25:50.

``I wish I could do my bank account like that,'' Jackson said.

Moments later, Hampton was sacked.

``I think Robby was like a big man at a buffet,'' he said. ``He got a little greedy. He saw Boo Williams running that post. He tried to hang on to it. He should have just dumped it off and got the first down. Everybody's pressing a little bit because No. 4, Cedric Cobbs, is not back there. You could see it a little bit on that play.''

Jackson said the lines only work if they fit. They come naturally, he said, because of his many off-the-cuff speeches and time spent around his uncle, a pastor.

``I don't want it to be comical all the time,'' Jackson said. ``But when somebody's listening to you for 3 1/2 hours, you've got to do something.''

Schaeffer contributed historical perspective and tremendous recall that Jackson doesn't try to match.

``He brings a kind of football jargon, an explanation like a player would describe something,'' Eells said. ``Why a play worked or it didn't work.''

When Eddie Jackson backed into Richard Smith and Smith fumbled a punt, Jackson cited a miscommunication. Normally, he said, the punt returner ``is screaming at the guy in front of him, `Hey, I'm here, I'm here.' But they must not have said anything and Eddie Jackson didn't know.''

He also explained Smith's decision to make a fair catch inside the Arkansas 10.

``In his mind, he has a time clock,'' Jackson said. ``He says one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four. He made a decision to catch the ball at the 7-yard line. Most of the time that's a bad decision, but he knew there were some guys behind him so he had to catch it or it would be down at the 1-yard line.''

Jackson called a penalty against Arkansas a ``touchy hold'' and offered, ``There's a difference between a hold when you take a guy and pull him to keep him from making the play. Tackles are taught to get ahold of those pads and grab there and keep a guy there and that's exactly what he was doing on that play.''

Hampton missed badly on a pass for Richard Smith and Jackson said they were on different wave lengths. Moments later, he spotted wide receiver coach Fitz Hill on the sideline explaining the foulup to Smith.

Williams caught nine passes for 282 yards in the first two games, but managed only one catch against Alabama.

Jackson said the Crimson Tide was well aware that Cobbs was hurt.

``They're not going to let Boo Williams beat them,'' he said. ``The safety lines up in the middle of the field and acts like he's not paying attention to Boo. At the snap of the ball, he's always running over there so Boo is getting a constant double team. If they're going to get passes down field, they're going to have to go to other receivers.''

On the field, Jackson made his reputation at Oklahoma. He was so talented that he was named an All-American tight end even though he played in a run-run-run Wishbone.

The 13th player picked in the 1988 NFL draft, Jackson played for Philadelphia and Miami and finished his career with a Super Bowl championship with Green Bay.

He returned home to Little Rock and put much of his energy into the P.A.R.K. (Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids) program in Southwest Little Rock. His name has helped attract corporate sponsors for the nonprofit organization, which provides after-school tutoring, recreation and summer programs for kids in danger of dropping out of school or threatened by drugs, gangs and other factors.

A couple of weeks ago, Jackson underlined his message to the kids. OU's 1985 national championship team had a reunion, but Jackson passed because of a Razorback conflict.

``Once you sign on to do something, you've got to do it,'' he said.

Eells is in his 23rd year of doing Razorback play-by-play and Jackson counts on that experience. ``I told him, `Paul, ask me the questions you think people want to hear.''

Jackson has a knack for speaking his piece and getting out. Eells said his cohort told him before the first game, ``You won't hear me talking over you, ever.''

``I learned that a long time ago, let the play-by-play guy do his job,'' Jackson said. ``Sometimes, the listener missed the play before.''

Occasionally, Eells makes eye contact with Jackson; other times he simply pauses to provide an opportunity.

``From the very start, it has worked so smooth,'' Eells said. ``I've really had fun listening to him and working with him.''

Jackson said that he occasionally has to remind himself to be more descriptive because he's doing radio instead of TV.

``You had to see that tackle by Carlos Hall,'' Jackson tells listeners at one point. ``Two guys are pulling to kick him out. He gives them a move like a tight end, swims inside of them and makes the tackle.''

Eells says the best compliment is the comment he's heard often: ``It sounds like you guys have been working together for years.''