The UB football team was struck with tragedy about a year and a half ago. Their teammate, Solomon Jackson, passed away one week after suffering a medical emergency during spring practice.
His teammates hold him in high regard and, at the request of the Jackson family, the program is honoring his memory by allowing a player to don Jackson’s number, 41. The tradition began last year with former Bulls cornerback Boise Ross, who was Jackson’s roommate. This year, senior linebacker and team captain Jarrett Franklin is carrying on the tradition of wearing Jackson’s number.
“Jarrett is a fine young man,” said Jackson’s father Steven. “I was honored that he was about to wear it. It’s an honor to the family for such a young man with such character to want to wear it. He was a great friend of Solo’s and that meant a lot to me and my family.”
Steven talked about how close Franklin and his son were off the field. Since both were from out of town, they spent their holidays together. Steven said that Franklin and Jackson would head to Rochester to visit with the family of Franklin’s girlfriend. He appreciated knowing that Solo had people that were like family to him that he could be with on Holiday’s.
Franklin appreciates the honor that Jackson’s family has given him by choosing him to represent this legacy.
“It’s a blessing, Solo wore it with pride,” Franklin said. “It’s a great honor to represent everything he stood for. I’m happy to be out here and showing pride in the program and everything he did.”
Jackson was a hard worker who brought a great attitude to the game every time he stepped on the field, Franklin said. His goal is to bring Jackson’s approach to the game every day he wears the 41 jersey. Franklin hopes to capture Jackson’s attitude not just for himself but for his teammates as well.
“What we’re trying to instill is everything you do in life and especially football, it all depends on your attitude,” Franklin said. “And if you have a bad attitude, it’s gonna correlate to the field, that means you’re gonna have a bad practice… if you come out with a smile on your face, you’re gonna approach practice more joyful and happy to be there.”
Franklin is now in his fifth year at UB and said the honor of wearing 41 has motivated him to become a leader on the team. He directs the team’s post-practice stretches and is a big leader on the field during games. Franklin feels everyone on the team has been stepping up to help each other out.
Bulls head coach Lance Leipold said Franklin is deserving of the honor and the Jackson’s decided Franklin would wear the uniform. They felt his closeness to Solomon made him the best choice.
“It was my recommendation of a few different names, but ultimately the Jackson family made the final decision,” Leipold said. “They want the number to live and to live on the field on Saturdays, much like Boise Ross wore it last year…I thought it was a great decision because in the first two years, Boise Ross and Jarrett Franklin were the two people who spoke at Solomon’s memorial service, so it was very fitting.”
Ross wore the jersey last year after rooming with Jackson during their entire time together in Buffalo. Leipold felt he represented himself well in the jersey. Ross was the top corner on the defense and a major vocal leader in the games.
Franklin is following in Ross’ footsteps this year and leading the team by example. The defense has improved tremendously this year. Franklin’s teammates recognize the leadership he demonstrates on the field and acknowledge he’s the best player to represent the 41 jersey.
“He’s a great leader," said senior safety Tim Roberts. “When I came from [junior college] here to buffalo he was one of the first people that showed me the ropes and how everything was done. He’s one of the smartest people I know and they couldn’t have chosen a better person to wear 41. By watching [Franklin] lead in the way that he does, it made me the great leader that I am today.”
The plan is to continue the tradition moving forward.
“That’s what our intentions are, we want to keep Solomon’s legacy alive, we want to keep Solo’s legacy alive,” Mr. Jackson said. “He was such a great person, he did a lot for so many different people that's why they came up with all four one because he was one for all.”
Franklin said it’s not just about the number, it’s about honoring his friend. He remembers Solomon as one of the happiest guys he’s ever met and uses his memory to help him not get down on himself.
“There was a not a time that you couldn’t see him smiling, you could even barge into his room and he’s just there smiling,” Franklin said. “Even if he’s working hard on something or playing videogames, or film or at practice, he’s always smiling.”
Daniel Petruccelli is the Co-Senior sports editor and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org