How Jackson Ness came to embody FTT

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Choosing to play on the offensive line at Boston College comes with considerable pressure. The lore surrounding the big dogs — players who live game day in the trenches — has earned the moniker “O-Line U” on a program known for producing smashing starters on championship-caliber rosters. More than a few NFL franchises have won Super Bowl championships thanks to BC’s ability to develop offensive linemen, and the most famous of those names litter the hands that lifted the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Jackson Nes was well aware of this reputation when he arrived at Chestnut Hill as a defensive end. The six-foot-five Ohio strongman saw the names lining the Fish Field House South Zone as a first-round pick, and he practiced against players who later had their names called during the NFL draft. So after three years and no more than a dozen snaps combined on the defensive side of the ball, he got closer Jeff Hafley with a proposal to change sides on the attack.

Hafley allowed it, and less than a year later, the redshirt junior who was once a three-star defensive prospect is now in line to earn competitive snaps and start with the rebuilt BC offensive line. By embracing the culture and the pressure, he moved past the depth chart and stands as a crucial example of a player grabbing the brass ring in a program built around doing whatever it takes to help the team. .

“I see this as a great opportunity,” Ness said. “Obviously with a lot of starters gone last year and maybe not as long as I would have liked [on the defensive line], I went to Coach Hafley and thought the change might be worth it for me. I changed in the spring and really had to learn quickly on the move, especially playing in the middle. So I think continuing to develop every day has been very helpful to me.”

Ness’ resume had virtually nothing on the offensive side until last spring. He played one season at guard during his senior year at Upper Arlington High School, but left the Golden Bears as the No. 31 ranked prospect in his home state. He was a second-team all-state and first-team all-district defensive end, and he won the Ohio Capital Conference Player of the Year in large part because he disrupted opposing attacks with a robust physical game.

He appeared in a game in a first season that earned him a redshirt, but then Ness’ career came to a halt after playing perhaps more than a dozen snaps over the next two years. He hasn’t played a game in the 2020 season, and his only tackle came in BC’s blowout win over Colgate. Between the return of production and a new recruiting class, the writing was on the wall for him on the defensive line that playing time would be, at best, limited.

The offensive side, meanwhile, was a different story as every starting lineman in the 2021 season was gone. Christian mahogany should return, but the rest of the starting lineup – including the center – was up for grabs, which produced the creative approach Ness needed to navigate his way onto the pitch.

“Jackson is a guy who was kind of buried if he wanted to play,” Hafley said, “so he came up to us and said, ‘Coach, I’ll play O-line. He saw we lost a ton of guys, so you gotta respect that, [and] I have a ton of respect for him coming in. [He is] a guy who’s been here forever and comes in and did a great job. He has that mindset which is all he wants. He’s a good athlete.”

This led to a formal change in spring training, but Ness quickly closed the gap between himself and the other natural offensive linemen. His presence created depth behind the redshirt freshman Drew Kendallwho, like Ness, played guard in high school, but as training camp progressed, upperclass acumen created an impression on a new post coach and offensive coordinator starting the setup of a new scheme.

“The defensive line was more about getting off the ball,” Ness said, “and I think the offensive line has more power and quick feet. You engage with a guy and you get closer, so I think a lot of those skills translated I still had to work on my feet in the spring, more specifically, to settle in and wait [defensive linemen] to come to me…[but] it was awesome. I like [offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo] and work with [the offensive line].

“I think what’s a bit unique is that I changed at a time when there was this brand new offense,” he explained. “Everyone was learning the same kind of pieces with me, and we were learning it together and bonding that way.”

Ness is now ready to see some serious shots on an offensive line primed for the mantle at “O-Line U.” He trains with Kendall, the legacy four-star rookie whose father’s jersey hangs with the rest of those first-round picks in the Fish Field House, and he builds camaraderie with a hungry room teeming with youthful exuberance. They all understand the complaint and the issue surrounding a unit with five new starters, but taking on the challenge is exactly like a player who was attacking that unit less than a year ago.

“He had a really good camp,” Hafley said, “and he’s going to play this year. He knows that, and he should be proud of that. [himself]. I’m really excited about what he’s accomplished in such a short time. He is a good football player and he will help us win games. I’m very confident in that.”

“I just wanted to get on the court at Boston College,” Ness said. “I mean, look around. It’s a great place with great, special people who are here. I wanted to play here, and I wasn’t necessarily given that. [on the defensive line]. So I moved to the offensive line and continued to work every day.

“It’s anything to help the team,” he said. “Coach Hafley talks about ‘FTT’ (For The Team) all the time. It’s bullshit for the team.”

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