By: Brandon Shields
The sports history of Jackson and Madison County includes some names whose recognition reach much further than the borders of the county.
The county has produced one Olympian – Jackie Beard. Beard was one of an entire generation of boys who grew into men at the Jackson Boxing Club, run by the late Rayford Collins.
Beard qualified for the U.S. Olympic Boxing team for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow but didn’t get to go because President Jimmy Carter ordered an American boycott of the games because of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.
The county has had a number of football players go on to play in the pros for the National Football League. Super Bowl champions from the county include Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Trey Teague and Jabari Greer.
Jones graduated from Merry High School and played college ball at Tennessee State before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1974 with the first overall pick and led them to winning Super Bowl XII.
Trey Teague played at University School of Jackson and the University of Tennessee before being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1998, and they won their second consecutive world championship in Teague’s rookie season.
Jabari Greer graduated from South Side in 2000 and played for Tennessee before being signed by the Buffalo Bills in 2004 and eventually signing with the New Orleans Saints in 2009 just in time for their Super Bowl championship.
There have been more than 20 state championship teams from the county with University School of Jackson baseball claiming the most for a single program with five. Trinity Christian softball had four, and Liberty boys basketball has won three.
Youth sports history in Jackson has its share of highlights as well with two youth soccer teams from Jackson making it to the President’s Cup National Tournament in travel soccer.
In 1974, Jackson’s Little League All-Star Team made it to the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania.
Pro baseball has been in Jackson consistently from 1998 until 2021. The West Tenn Diamond Jaxx won the Southern League Championship in 1999, and after changing the team name to the Jackson Generals in 2010, the Generals won three championships in four years from 2016-19.
In addition to the Generals, different prominent Major League players either had rehab assignments in Jackson or played here on their way up the minor leagues. The most memorable of those appearances was when the Diamond Jaxx were still an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and slugger Sammy Sosa was in Jackson for a couple of nights.
Jackson’s sports future looks bright as youngsters continue to play at the West Tennessee Healthcare Sportsplex for baseball and softball, North Park for soccer, the Jackson Tennis Complex and Conger Park for tennis and in gyms and on playgrounds all around the city for basketball.
Five years after being shut down, JCM is set to return in the fall of 2021 with the hopes of returning its tradition of sports excellence with it.