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They may end up calling it ‘The Catch’ in the nation’s capital. Ernest Jackson is very glad it’s not being called ‘the drop’, and under very different circumstances.
‘The Bobble’ might be okay by him, too, considering it all turned out just right as Jackson hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Henry Burris in overtime, giving the REDBLACKS the winning points they needed in a 39-33 win in the 104th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.
“It was about three times I bobbled that thing,” said a laughing Jackson, a few moments after the REDBLACKS had hoisted the cup just beyond the end zone where he’d made his heart-stopping, game-winning grab; a grab that in one moment perfectly encapsulated a topsy-turvy, emotional tug of war of a classic.
It would have been incredible had Jackson dropped that ball. It was already incredible that he had dropped one earlier in the game, after finishing a regular season in which he’d dropped none – zero – and an Eastern Final where he’d somehow made a clutch conversion catch on the drive that helped the REDBLACKS put away the Edmonton Eskimos in the middle of a snow storm.
“I was so open I was trying to run before I caught the ball,” Jackson said of the catch, which came as he slanted in on a route from the right-hand slot. “I just had to concentrate after I bobbled it and I bobbled it all the way to the end zone. Then it was the greatest feeling ever.”
On the night, Jackson, the 2016 East Division nominee for Most Outstanding Player, hauled in six Henry Burris passes for a total of 96 yards to lead all receivers.
When Jackson first got his hands on the pass, just over Calgary linebacker Alex Singleton, Burris had seemingly lost sight of him for a moment and was wondering what happened, getting a glimpse of the ball bouncing around a bit. He was dumbstruck when the crowd roared as Jackson gained control just before the goal line, tumbling into the end zone between defensive backs Ciante Evans and Jamar Wall.
“Did it just happen? Did we just score?” Burris asked, rhetorically, during his post game media conference.
For his part, Jackson didn’t really know how exactly the ball was rattling around. Seemed oblivious to the fact that at one point he trapped the ball between his right hand and his helmet. All he knew was that he did not have control and absolutely had to, otherwise the REDBLACKS were kicking a field goal. Then, who knows what happens?
“It was just me concentrating on the ball and I just knew I had to finish,” he said.
Reminded that he’d recorded no drops during the entire regular season, and that it would have been a terrible time for one of the league’s surest receivers to miss an easy one, Jackson’s eyes widened a bit and he smiled.
“For that to go through and to miss that one and to be so open, it’d have been a heartbreaker,” he said, probably happy that he wasn’t conducting an interview in an alternate universe, where Ottawa went on to lose.
Like a lot of his teammates, Jackson was emotional about the REDBLACKS’ victory and he considered his own personal history with the them, signing as a free agent after a 2-16 season in their first year in the league.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said. “To have that perseverance, to keep grinding, coming from being on the practice roster in BC, and to come all this far and come out here and win a Grey Cup with all of my teammates, it’s great.”
And to make a crazy, bouncing, stay-with-it circus catch to help a city celebrate its first Grey Cup championship in 40 years? Sweet as sweet can be.
“This game, it was definitely incredible,” he said. “I haven’t been in a game like this, never in my life. Just to come out and finish this and have that catch, it’s phenomenal.”