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Jackson makes a difference on defense at Fresno State
•Former CVHS multi-sport athlete intercepts pass in Fresno State’s 37-30 win over Boise State
Phoenix Jackson revisit
Former Central Valley High School multi-sport athlete Phoenix Jackson tallied his first career interception during the Fresno State football team’s 37-30 victory over Boise State.

Former Central Valley High School multi-sport athlete Phoenix Jackson enjoyed one his most productive games to date with Fresno State’s football team this past weekend.

The sophomore linebacker snagged his first career interception and collected four tackles during the Bulldogs’ 37-30 win against the visiting Boise State Broncos in Mountain West Conference play Saturday night at Valley Children’s Stadium.

Fresno State senior linebacker/team captain Levelle Bailey praised Jackson during the postgame press conference.

“He’s got a great upside, always positive and he’s a learner of the game,” Bailey said. 

“It felt so good to help my team out,” Jackson said. “I was finally able to contribute to the cause.”

Jackson made the biggest play of his college football career in front of a sold-out crowd, including his dad, mom, brother, uncle and cousin. 

“It was dope to give them something to be proud of,” he said. “I made them happy. It’s a great feeling. I’m just getting started. It’s just the beginning. I haven’t touched the surface yet. My confidence level comes from my hard work and dedication.”

Jackson impressed former Fresno State cornerback/Dallas Cowboys 2022 fifth-round draft pick DaRon Bland. Jackson and Bland graduated from Central Catholic High School in 2021 and 2017, respectively.

“After the game, he (Bland) text me, ‘Cuzzo, that’s a play!!!! We’ve known each other since we were kids. He’s family. He’s showed me I could do it (anything) if I set my mind to it.”

Jackson accounted for one of Fresno State’s two takeaways on defense versus Boise State.

His interception ended a potential Broncos’ scoring drive at the Bulldogs’ 23-yard line in the second quarter.

“I was spying the quarterback,” Jackson said. “I read his eyes and jumped. If he would have run, I would have got him.”

Jackson and his Bulldog teammates were awarded the Milk Can trophy for the first time since 2017 after the winning rivalry game.

“It’s a great feeling bringing it back to the Valley,” Jackson said. “Everybody that supports the program deserves this.”

Fresno State improved to 8-1 overall and remained in second place in the MWC standings (4-1).

Unbeaten at home in 2023, the Bulldogs have won 15 straight games at Valley Children’s Stadium.

Boise State dropped to 4-5 and 3-2.

“It puts a bigger target on us."

Jackson joined the Fresno State football program as a preferred walk-on player in 2021.

His dedication and effort didn’t go unnoticed the past two seasons.

Jeff Tedford, head coach of the Bulldogs, awarded Jackson a full scholarship for the 2023-24 school year in May.

“It was the best day ever. It was a dream come true. I earned it. Nothing was given to me.”

Jackson climbed to No. 2 on the depth chart at middle linebacker heading into the 2023 season.

He’s also a member of the Bulldogs’ special teams kickoff coverage units for the second year in a row.

“I’m a well-rounded player who has so much more room to grow,” said Jackson. “If I keep taking the coaching I’m getting, I’ll become the player I want to be.”

Jackson trained Monday through Friday in Fresno and on Saturdays in Stockton during the offseason.

“Phoenix had a phenomenal summer,” Bulldogs’ Director of Sports Performance Andy Ward said. “He went from 17% to 10% body fat, a huge transition, and he’s still staying in that 220 to 225 pound range. His body weight didn’t go down with that, and his peak power has gone up tremendously. All of his numbers went up-squat, bench, all of that stuff. He absolutely crushed it. He dominated it.”

Jackson has worked with former Fresno State cornerback Dante Marsh for the past six years.

Marsh currently trains athletes at The Factory Institute of Training in Stockton.

“I’ve been training with him since I was a sophomore in high school,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t be the football player and person I am without him. He’s the best trainer in the world.”

Jackson appeared in all 14 of Fresno State’s games as redshirt freshman last fall.

He was a member of the Bulldogs’ special teams kickoff coverage units.

He also logged playing time at linebacker.

Jackson totaled 18 tackles, including a career-high four against Boise State and Hawai’i.

“I wasn’t playing as confident as I should have. It was a big learning experience.”

Jackson did not see game action in 2021.

He was a scout-team player.

“I really never sit back and think about it,” Jackson said while talking about beating the odds by becoming an NCAA Division-I student-athlete. “It’s a blessing. Not everybody can do it.”

An honor-roll student at Mae Hensley Junior High in Ceres, Jackson attended Central Valley High School for one year prior to transferring to Central Catholic.

Jackson played youth football for the Ceres Seahawks and recreational and all-star baseball for CYB.

Phoenix Jackson runs
Fresno State linebacker Phoenix Jackson races upfield after intercepting a pass in the second quarter versus Boise State.