Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A 'Man' worth a chance

SEFFNER — Armwood's Sean Callahan has one of the top football programs in the state.

This year's team is nationally ranked, will make its season debut on ESPNU on Friday against Plant and is expected to win a state championship.

He has talent at every position, with future Division I-A players carrying out his plays.

He might have his best team ever.

Clearly, Callahan is not a man who needs to take a chance on a talented player with a checkered past and a questionable future.

So why is he?

• • •

Theodore Jackson is 6 feet 2, 225 pounds and runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. He will start Friday on one of the best defensive lines in the country and looks to be every bit as good as the Hawks say he is.

He spends Monday's practice working over the center and guards, sometimes splitting them, sometimes running them over.

They can't stop him.

They call him Man-Man.

"Two men,'' says star defensive end Ryne Giddins with a chuckle.

"A monster,'' says Callahan.

Jackson has also been arrested three times, in 2002, 2003 and in October (for battery).

He missed more than 200 days of school as a freshman and sophomore.

Still, when he showed up in April and asked for a chance to play for Tampa Bay's premier football program, Callahan listened.

"I told him, let's start with you going to school for a whole week,'' he said. "Then come talk to me.''

• • •

Jackson says football is his life, but it's just a cliche he heard somewhere. Because truth is, he could only be so lucky.

Life is his life, and for most of his 18 years, it has stunk.

He's not proud of his past. There are all kinds of reasons he has missed so much school.

"Sometimes lights be cut off or the water off or I missed the bus or I missed my ride or (my mom) gotta go somewhere and I gotta stay home,'' he said.

Sometimes, his family had no place to live. When they do, he often stays home, to watch his baby sisters and brothers. There's man, and mini-man and 'lil man, all nicknames given by their mother.

• • •

Jackson was earnest about football in the spring. He wanted to change, even if excuses kept him from the first two practices.

By the end of the second week, Jackson was showing up and practicing with the second team. He was destroying the first-team offense. He wanted to be with the starters.

More than 100 Division I-A schools sent coaches to Armwood's campus in May. They came to see stars like Giddins and Petey Smith and Mywan Jackson. Theodore Jackson caught the eye of almost all of them, and some of his teammates as well.

"Everybody wanted him on the team, everybody was saying all these great things so I said, well, then let's all get together and do it,'' Callahan said.

Giddins helped Jackson in school and made sure he was showing up, even if that meant picking him up and dropping him off. Mywan Jackson made sure he went from class to class. The coaching staff, especially line coach Ron Johnson, made sure he got the tutoring he needed.

"There's a lot to his background you don't know, more than you think. He's not a normal dude,'' Giddins said. "We had to get him right. If he's going to do his part on the field, then we told him he's got to do his part off the field. We still bump heads with him … but we're helping him.''

He has missed one day of school so far and remains a work in progress. Monday, he missed his ride to practice from teammate Alton Bailey, so Callahan had to go fetch him.

"I'm not going to lie to you, it's been a battle every day,'' Callahan said. "It's not as big a battle today as it was, but I think we have the switch almost flipped.''

• • •

Callahan is taking a huge risk, though he doesn't see it that way.

Yes, he says, his football team doesn't need Jackson. But Jackson needs his football team.

At the core, this makes perfect sense, really. Callahan is in the business of turning boys into men. Even Men-Men.

"I don't feel like this is going to be a failure,'' he said. "Have I ever been wrong? Yes. But why would I go against my gut feeling? I'm not in the business of firing kids, I'm in the business of trying to make them better.''

Even if sometimes it backfires. And it has backfired.

"I won't get hurt by Man-Man,'' Callahan said. "He's a good kid, he really is.''

For the record, Callahan admits he wouldn't be putting in this effort, and asking his team to do the same, for just anyone.

"Would I do this for a kid not playing football? Probably not. But I'm a football coach,'' Callahan said.

"You should know this though: Man-Man shows a very high level of appreciation for this. If he treated us like trash, it would be a different story. He wants to be here. He's just asking for a little help.''

Jackson isn't comfortable discussing his past. He answers with words, not sentences, staring straight ahead.

But the future?

It makes him smile.

"I never thought I'd have this many people on my side,'' he said.

"Things are changing. I don't wanna go back to how it was. I never wanna go back.''

John C. Cotey can be reached at

A 'Man' worth a chance 09/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Competition and uncertainty keep New Port Richey's Steve Miklos hooked on power boat racing


    HOLIDAY — If Steve Miklos could have it his way, every power boat race would take place in rough water. He finds the turbulent conditions calming, an attitude he's developed during a professional power boat racing career that spans hundreds of races dating back to 1991.

    Steve Miklos, the throttle man and owner of the No. 51 Sun Print Racing boat, poses at his shop in Holiday. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  2. Did a Cubs player give Trump the middle finger during a White House visit?


    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on …

    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on social media.
The photo, taken by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly shows outfielder Albert Almora Jr. flipping a bird while standing just feet from Trump as the other players were gathered around his desk. [Gordon Wittenmyer via Twitter]
  3. Jeff Vinik contributing $6 million to fund Lightning's practice facility upgrade


    Lightning owner Jeff Vinik will invest $6 million in upgrading the team's practice facility, the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.

    The plan will create a brand new locker room and training facilities for the team, an 18,000 square foot addition.
  4. Buccaneers defense was among NFL's best when its pressure got to the QB


    It doesn't matter how many times they've thrown a football. It doesn't matter how many seasons they've played. It doesn't matter whether they have a degree from Harvard or Central Florida.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded 6.5 sacks last season, but many of his other contributions didn't show up in the box scores. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

  5. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …