CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Logan Jackson doesn't need help remembering the final play of his high school football career, but the former East Hamilton running back has reminders everywhere.
The most obvious one stares back at him every morning in the form of an eight-inch incision across his left knee, yet Jackson also makes sure subtle ones find him throughout the day.
While that moment proved to be the lowest point of his still-young life, it also serves as the starting point for his slightly-altered, yet still-bright future.
"I wake up every morning and look at my knee and think about why it happened, but I've come to realize it's all just part of God's plan," Jackson said while working out last week at DI in Chattanooga. "I just use it all as motivation now. Somebody took a picture of me walking off the field after I tore up my knee, so I set it as my background on my phone to always remember what it was like."
Jackson entered the 2012 state playoffs as the area's most productive back with more than 1,500 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns as the Hurricanes finished the regular season 9-1.
The 6-foot, 210-pounder also boasted a 4.5-second 40-yard-dash, and received heavy recruiting interest from a host of FCS schools, including University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Appalachian State, Furman and Tennessee Tech.
However, the calls slowed when after one awkward cut in East Hamilton's 38-0 opening-round rout of Marshall County.
Jackson caught a screen pass an maneuvered through traffic for ten yards before his knee buckled. It was diagnosed a few days later as a torn ACL.
"I understand the schools' position, but it was still tough," Jackson said about losing scholarships. "There were a couple teams that kept calling, but they started talking about different things and about being a walk-on."
Already a player widely praised for his work ethic, Jackson went into overdrive on the road to recovery.
"We deal with athletes and people who are highly-motivated all the time here, but he was a step above," said DI physical therapist Pablo Alvarez. "He really, from the beginning, came in here and wanted to bust his tail."
Jackson wasted no time embarking on that journey, beginning rehab in the weeks prior to his surgery in late November. He said the hardest stretch was a six-week period spent in a cast after the procedure, which limited his activity on the field.
"The hardest thing for us with him has been slowing him down," Alavarez said. "Every time he came in, it was, 'Can I run? Can I run?' He just wanted to push it, but we wanted him to slow down and let things heal."
Turns out, Jackson got his way.
When told he couldn't perform a certain activity, he sought alternatives and additions to the drills he was allowed to do. He pestered Alvarez for advice and extra work, continuing to move up his return date.
"I did a lot of things before I was supposed to, but I was really feeling great," Jackson said. "I supposed to start cutting last month, but I've been doing it now for two-to-three months. When I told about it, he said I wasn't supposed to be doing that.
"But it's all worked out and I'm good with it all now."
Eight months removed from surgery, Jackson is nearly a month ahead of schedule in his rehab.
He said doctors will likely clear him for full-contact activities in the next two weeks. That will make him available for the start of preseason camp on July 29 at UTC, where he plans to earn his way as a preferred walk-on.
"They hung with me more than anyone through all this, and I've been really excited about where the program is heading over the last few years," Jackson said. "But I'm going to work hard every day to prove to the coaches that they should have given me a scholarship or come after me harder.
"Ya, I tore my ACL, but I feel like I'll be a lot stronger when I get back."
That strength is as much mental as it is physical.
Jackson has never feared re-injuring the knee during his rehab, a trait Alvarez credits to the running back's youth.
"Young kids always think they're invincible to a certain degree," he said. "But there's no doubt Logan had the drive and worked incredibly hard to get back to where he is now.
"It's exciting to see him on the verge of getting what he's been working for."
That goal was to play football on the college level, free of fear and limitations related to an injury.
"If God wants me to tear it again, I guess I will, but really I could tear it running up the stairs to eat breakfast," Jackson said. "I guess it's in the back of my mind, but at the same time, I'm going to go out there and play hard every play."
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