A 15 year-old valedictorian honor student and football star – Nicholas Jackson II – told his family that he dreamed of one day being on the college football team at Alabama State University – a dream that came true last Saturday at his funeral.

Several senior ASU officials went to Jackson’s funeral at their own expense at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross, Ga, which is directly across the street from his home.  The youth was slain there in a home invasion.

Jackson, who was shot in the heart on Feb. 2 at his parent’s home in Norcross, Ga., and shortly died afterward in a local hospital, was honored by the university that he wished to attend and play football for – posthumously, said Danielle Kennedy, vice president of ASU’s University Relations.

“We were profoundly struck with grief when we heard what happened to Nicholas Jackson at his parent’s home,” Kennedy said, “In an attempt to help comfort his family and honor the young man’s wishes of one day playing for the Hornets, President William H. Harris decided to make his dream a reality,” she added.

The Hornets head football coach said that even though Jackson was in the ninth grade, ASU already had a number of alumni in the Atlanta Metro Area inform his coaching staff that Jackson was not only a rising football star – who played both fullback and linebacker – but was an honor student who was the valedictorian of his middle school’s graduating class at the Hopewell Christian Academy in Norcross, Ga.

“From what we already knew about Nicholas, he was a hot-shot player in middle school and was already playing varsity level football at Norcross High School, which is rare for any ninth grade player to be able to do, especially in the Atlanta high school football arena,” Barlow said. “On top of being a natural athlete, he was a straight-A student, which is something that we feel very strongly about at ASU.”

Officials at ASU learned on Feb. 3 of Jackson’s death from reports in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, where the lead in the story told of the young mans wish to one day play football at ASU.  (You can read the AJC story here.)

“When we learned from news reports in Atlanta that Nicholas Jackson’s family said that his dream was to one day play for ASU, we knew we had to reach out to his family and make this last wish of his a reality, which is what President Harris did for him,” said Kenneth Mullinax, ASU’s spokesman.

“Our goal is to honor Nicholas’ memory and to comfort his family and let them know that they have an extended family here at ASU, which is praying for them and holding them tight during this time of great loss and sorrow,” he added.

ASU officials spoke to Jackson’s middle school and high school principals and football coaches, and all four said he was a young man of great integrity, who served as a mentor to many of the students in his schools and who was always willing to help out when needed. Norcross police said the homicide was not gang related. Six men were arrested just moments after the shooting due to a vehicle description given by Jackson’s 17 year-old sister, who was home alone with him when the men broke down the family’s door and shot Jackson during the scuffle that ensued.

Both Jackson’s mother and father have spoken several times to ASU officials during the last few days, telling them that they are “touched” by the university’s gesture of honoring their only son and driving to Atlanta on Saturday to speak at his funeral.

“I want to thank Alabama State for honoring the best son a father could have and for helping bring us the one moment of happiness we have had since my boy left us,” said Nicholas Jackson Sr.

School officials said that four senior ASU officials attended Saturday’s funeral – Kennedy, Barlow, Mullinax and football coach Craig Payne. Both Kennedy and Barlow spoke at the funeral, presenting the family with an ASU football jersey and reading a resolution from the university’s president, Dr. William H. Harris, which made Nicholas Jackson both an honorary football player and an honorary student at Alabama State University.

Courtesy of WSFA 12