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Jackson breaks a first for Bulls

South Florida's Charlie Jackson, who lists sewing as his favorite hobby, ripped through a seam Saturday night.

Then he was gone, down the right sideline, chugging to the 94-yard kickoff return that ignited USF's 24-6 victory over the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Houlihan's Stadium.

"That hole opened like the Red Sea and I just hit it," said Jackson, who accounted for 204 yards on kickoff and punt returns. Not bad for USF's smallest player (5 feet 6, 156 pounds).

"I had been in a little slump, so I was looking to break a big return," he said. "It felt great."

Jackson's night didn't start so gloriously, though.

On his first punt return, Jackson slipped and downed himself at the USF 9-yard line. Then Jermaine Clemons lost a fumble on USF's first play from scrimmage, leading to a 39-yard field goal and a 3-0 Charleston Southern lead.

"I think it was my fault, putting Jermaine and my teammates in that big a hole right away," said Jackson, who serves as USF's third wide receiver and primary kick returner. "I wanted to make up for that."

He did. On the ensuing kickoff, Jackson zipped through an opening at the USF 30-yard line and outran the defenders. Just before being dragged down by Anthony Martin, Jackson made it to the end zone.

It was history _ the first USF kickoff return for a score _ but Jackson already was considered a trailblazer. In USF's first-ever scrimmage last season, on the first play from scrimmage, he caught a 70-yard touchdown from quarterback Lance Hoeltke.

"We always thought Charlie was pretty special," Bulls coach Jim Leavitt said. "He hadn't been that aggressive on his returns, but still he had been so close to breaking one loose. We knew he had the ability to go all the way.

"We haven't been playing him as much at receiver because we didn't want to put too much (responsibility) on him. We wanted him to be the excellent returner that he could be. I thought his kickoff return was huge and the blocking was absolutely tremendous. I thought we could break a punt return, too."

Jackson didn't do badly there, either. He had returns of 42, 17 and 35 yards.

"I just want to give the team a spark, give them something different," said Jackson, flashing a smile that includes three gold teeth.

Different? How about the sewing hobby? Jackson said it began in his junior year at Miami Edison, when he took a course in custom garment making.

"At first I thought it was only for women," Jackson said. "But I really, really like it. My grandmother always told me it was important to develop a hobby you enjoy. For me, it's sewing.

"I won a state award when I was in high school. I still can make outfits. I made one that I wore to homecoming. Some of the other guys say they wish they would have taken that class. Nobody on the team makes fun of me or anything."

Now Jackson is dressed for success on the football field, having established himself as a most dangerous return man.

"He gave us a huge lift," strong safety Roy Manns said. "He's really exciting to watch. He gives our team an added dimension."

"Charlie is definitely a big-play man," Leavitt said. "This night is going to really help his confidence. Any time you get a touchdown on a kickoff return, it's very big. Charlie's the kind of guy who can give us a real threat back there."

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