BOONE — Jackson Greene’s final season of playing football took an unusual twist.
The way he handled made it seem routine.
Greene, who played football, boys’ basketball and boys’ track and field during the 2018-19 academic year, was rewarded for his athletic endeavors by being given the Trail Blazer Award, which is given to the top male athlete at Watauga High School.
Greene said winning the Trail Blazer Award is turning into a family tradition.
“It’s an honor,” Greene said. “Just to represent the school with the sports I played. My cousin Bryant (Greene) won it last year and my cousin Hamilton (Castle) won it the year before that.”
Greene’s role with the Watauga football team was to play safety on defense and learn the wingback position offensively. The previous season, Greene played safety, but was also the backup quarterback.
With Anderson Castle returning as the starter, coach Ryan Habich wanted to keep Greene on the field offensively by moving him to wingback. Fate intervened with those plans when Castle injured his wrist on the third play from scrimmage in the Pioneers’ first game, which was at T.C. Roberson.
Habich called on Greene to take over the offense, even though Greene didn’t practice one play in the preseason at quarterback. Castle ended up missing six weeks of the season.
“I was a little rusty on the plays,” Greene said. “My teammates helped me out in the game and the coaches were talking to me during the special teams. I knew it from last year too.”
Greene said there was just one play that he remembered when he was out of position, but his teammates corrected him and it was forgotten.
“Our plays and the formations are so complex, you just have to know where to be and what to do and what everybody else is supposed to do as the quarterback,” Greene said.
Greene still played safety during the game, but didn’t seriously consider that he could get hurt, which would not just hurt the Pioneers at quarterback, but also defensively.
“I knew that there was a possibility that anybody can get hurt at any time,” Greene said. “I knew that I had to be prepared, so I had to help my team and my teammates.”
Greene helped his teammates at quarterback for the next six games while Castle was out of action. He ran for 649 yards and scored six touchdowns in six games as the starter. He also completed 58.1 percent of his passing while throwing for 612 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, Greene also made 73 tackles, three for a loss. He also intercepted five passes and recovered two fumbles. He returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown against Ashe County.
Greene completed the season without injury. He helped the Pioneers to a 13-1 overall record, 11-0 in the regular season including a 7-0 Northwestern Conference record and a league championship.
Greene was named the NWC’s Player of the Year and Watauga reached the third round of the state 3-AA playoffs. After losing to Weddington in the playoffs, on a Friday, Greene moved on to basketball the following Monday.
Greene was not the only football player to make the move to basketball. Castle, Jaiden Bond and Grant Oliver all joined the basketball team, and had little time to make the adjustment.
“We were all banged up,” Greene said. “We had one day over the weekend and it overlapped because they had already played two games. We came back and maybe had one practice and we played in the next game.”
The basketball didn’t match the football team’s success, but it wasn’t a disaster either. Watauga finished 13-13 overall, 7-7 and in fourth place in the NWC.
Greene was more of a role player for the basketball team by coming off the bench to average 1.7 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. It took a while for the football players to catch up to the rest of their teammates when it came to learning the Pioneers’ system.
Watauga coach Rob Sanders had some simple advice for the incoming football players.
“We didn’t know many of the plays,” Greene said. “We knew a few, but (Sanders) said just go out and have fun. We just went out there and played.”
Greene’s prep sports career did not end with his participation with the track and field team. Before Greene enrolls at Appalachian State, he will play in the East-West All-Star Football Game July 17 in Greensboro.
Greene will play safety for the West team, which is coached by former Appalachian State running back and current Monroe coach Johnny Sowell.
“I saw on Twitter the cool jerseys they put out,” Greene said. “It’s going to be cool playing in that game with all of the other athletes in the state. It’s a cool way to end high school.”
Greene said he will study business at Appalachian State. He will enroll in summer school to give him a head start to go with the 20 hours of college credit he’s already earned by taking classes at Caldwell Community College.