Dallas football coach heads north

Former head football coach Tracy Jackson stands between his two sons, Matt (left) and Andy Jackson (right), last football season.

Walt Markee
Former head football coach Tracy Jackson stands between his two sons, Matt (left) and Andy Jackson (right), last football season.

DALLAS — Mid-April, Tracy Jackson quietly said his goodbyes to the football team he has coached for the past six seasons and headed up to the Portland area with his family.

There, he has accepted a position as head football coach for Madison High School.

Andy Jackson, his son, was officially appointed as Dallas’s new head football coach on Monday.

Leaving wasn’t an easy decision for Tracy Jackson, but more of one that was necessary.

“I loved Dallas,” he said. “I was actually recruited to come back to a place I’ve been at before, where I have a chance to get really good insurance. It just seemed like it was good for my family.”

Jackson has been a football coach for 28 years, in places like Woodburn, Hood River, and North Marion.

During his time with Dallas, Jackson led the team to the semi-finals last year. They were just points away from landing in the playoffs and the state quarter finals two years before that.

“Dallas has always been a good football town, so it was good to have that success,” he said.

Football is more than just a sport for Jackson, more than just about winning or going to the playoffs.

“It’s a lifestyle,” he said.

And he preached that lifestyle to the kids he coached and to the colleagues he worked with.

“From the day he interviewed, I knew he was the right guy for the job,” Tim Larson, Dallas athletic director, said. “He talked about the kids — he talked about making our kids better, where everyone else talked about winning.”

Larson said Jackson would connect with the football team daily, making sure that everyone was doing everything they could to be successful on the field. Jackson held the kids to a high standard, Larson said.

“He will be missed,” he added.

Jackson’s passion for football started in the ninth grade, where his football coaches grew to become some of his most important influences in his later life.

“Those guys were my heroes. I looked at the life they were living and I wanted that life,” Jackson said.

And now: “I get paid to do something I’d do for free,” he added. “I get to build these great relationships with kids, and I get a chance to share the dumb things I‘ve done and the good things I’ve done. I wanted to be like those guys I grew up with.”

Going into Madison, Jackson said he is looking forward to implementing some structure into the team that they haven’t had before.

“We’re gonna teach the kids to care about each other,” he said. “That’s what football is all about, giving these boys a chance to become a team. It’s a great opportunity. That culture can last for a long time. We want to produce kids who can be good dads, husbands, good employees. If we can improve the world a little bit, then that’s enough.”

The heart he has for Dallas is evident in the way he speaks about the boys he’s coached and the relationships he’s established with the community. Leaving all that behind as he begins his new journey in Portland was hard, he said.

“Tell Dallas how much I’ve loved being there,” he said, “and how good of an experience that was for me — for meeting all the parents, and getting to work with kids I’ll love for the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll get a chance to help somebody else for a while, and that’s a good thing.”

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