By Trevor Wenners
Athletic Communications Assistant
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Many great players and leaders have come and gone through the Wesleyan University men's soccer program since head coach Geoff Wheeler took the reins in 1999.
Senior captain and defender Nick Jackson ranks right at the top of that group, as the outstanding competitor has meant the world to the program over the last four years, making it difficult for Wheeler to say goodbye.
|Nick Jackson became a true leader for the Cardinals during his senior campaign.|
"Nick has had a fantastic career as a Wesleyan player and senior captain," Wheeler stated. "He has played a major part on the field ever since he arrived as a freshman, and rose to become the clear leader of our team this season. In his sophomore year, he was part of a team that made it to the NESCAC Conference final. What I will miss most about Nick is his passion for the game and the sport, along with his infectious smile and competitive spirit."
Jackson's strengths revolve around his communication skills in the back of the defense, and his ability to mark the other team's leading scorer. On numerous occasions this fall, he tracked down and dispossessed players in the box, as his determination and grittiness on the pitch never wavers.
Jackson has also come through on the offensive side in some big moments during his collegiate run, most notably, netting the game-winning marker and his first collegiate goal in the 45th minute during a 1-0 triumph over eventual-national champion Tufts on Sept. 27, 2016, in Medford, Mass.
"The game at Tufts last season was a great team effort, and scoring the game winner made the victory that much more exciting," Jackson said. "Tufts was a great team, but we went into the game with a concrete game plan to counter the Jumbos' style of play. Kudos to the team for executing the game plan, and beating the eventual national champions."
During the 2017 season, he opened the scoring with a header goal during the 16th minute in a 4-2 win over visiting Bates on Sept. 23. The Vienna, Va. native was a key member on the 2014 and 2015 teams, which qualified for the NESCAC Tournament. During his tenure, the Cardinals boasted a 28-28-8 record.
Jackson took some time recently to reflect on the great memories with the men's soccer program, while also touching on the reasons behind his enrollment at Wesleyan back in 2014.
Q: Could you reflect on advancing to the NESCAC final during the 2015 season as the No. 8 seed?
A: Progressing to the final in 2015 was one of the greatest moments in my four years with this team. We had not qualified for the playoffs until the last day of the season. We needed a bit of help from one other game in the NESCAC. When that went our way, we did not look back and stood face to face with Amherst, who was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time, and the Mammoths beat us 5-0 a week earlier. We marched onto the final where we, unfortunately, lost in overtime. The best moment in that tournament was Dylan Hoy, a junior at the time, chipping the ball on the game-winning penalty kick in the semifinals against Middlebury.
Q: What lessons have you learned from Wheeler?
A: Coach Wheeler has taught me many lessons over my past four years in the program. One lesson that will stay with me for the rest of my life is how to react to adversity – whether you lose a game, get fired from a job, etc. There is always an opportunity to bounce back and one's reaction to the adversity will say a lot about their character.
Q: What have you learned from your role as a captain this fall?
A: Being a captain on the team comes with a lot of responsibility, but my job would have been much more difficult if I was not surrounded by such great leaders in my senior class. So, I must give credit to Brian Harnett, Adam Cowie-Haskell, Taylor Chin, Martino Barzaghi, Aaron Stone, Charlie Livingstone and Garrett Hardesty, who were all exceptional this year. Livingstone and Chin helped run the spring-training sessions, while some of the other seniors were abroad.
Q: Did your role on the team change?
A: My role on the field did not change much from last year where I attempted to be both a vocal leader and also lead by example. However, off the field, there are a lot more responsibilities in managing players and keeping everyone on the same page. The more I was able to communicate with guys on the team, the better I was able to manage the group.
Q: Who is your favorite professional soccer player and why?
A: Sergio Ramos is one of my favorite center backs, but I am also a big fan of the newly-retired English players, such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. They all demonstrate great leadership and show up in the biggest moments on the field.
Q: What do you take the most pride in on the soccer field?
A: I take pride in winning my individual battles. More recently, I have tried to become a better communicator on the field.
Q: What made you choose Wesleyan over other schools?
A: I chose Wesleyan over a few other NESCAC schools because of Wheeler, the network, the campus and the open curriculum. Wheeler made me feel welcomed at Wesleyan from the minute I verbally committed to the school. Along with Wheeler, the alumni that I knew from Wesleyan before attending only had the best things to say about the school. The campus is beautiful and the open curriculum was the cherry on top – I never wanted to take an English class again after high school.
Q: What has been your favorite part of attending Wesleyan, and how would you describe the school to other people?
A: I would describe it as a very politically intense, but welcoming institution. My favorite part about attending Wesleyan has been the people I have met. The athletic community is very tight and I have met friends for life. The alumni network – especially with athletes – has also been incredible and I am very fortunate to have taken advantage of that.
Q: If you could design the perfect meal what would it include, and if you could choose five people in the world to invite who would they be?
A: Let's say Geoff Wheeler, Joe Cherackal, Adrian Blackadar, Phillip Harr and Zach Eddinger. We would have a nice barbecue tailgate outside a professional soccer game.