Alvin Ray Jackson left the VooDoo after his record-breaking Arena Football League season of 2012, his way of supporting the head coach who once helped him reach the field.
Former VooDoo coach Derek Stingley had moved on to the Pittsburgh Power, and he needed a Jack linebacker. So he called Jackson, whose 14 interceptions during Stingley’s last season in New Orleans marked the most in league history at the position.
Jackson, a Mississippi native, endured the Midwest snow flurries, the football troubles of a losing season which led to Stingley’s departure at the end of the 2013 season. The VooDoo, meanwhile, struggled without Jackson, finishing with a 5-13 record.
Entering Friday night’s VooDoo (1-2) game at the Pittsburgh Power (2-1), Jackson is back in the middle of the VooDoo defense, back near family where he feels comfortable.
“I wanted to help him because he helped me when nobody else would give me a chance,” said Jackson, who tallied 701/2 tackles and three interceptions last season with the Power.
With Jackson, the VooDoo defense has improved from last season’s struggles, ranking eighth in scoring defense (51.3 points per game). The unit’s highlights through three games includes a near first-half shutout against the Cleveland Gladiators and a three-interception performance during last Thursday’s 62-55 win against the Orlando Predators.
Jackson had the last interception, his play on a third-and-goal in the final minutes.
“We’re still learning a new defense under (defensive backs) coach (Damon) Mason, and the guys are picking it up real fast,” Jackson said. “But we still haven’t mastered it. Once we’ve mastered the defense, around midseason, it’s going to be even better. I’m just excited about what we have to look forward to.”
Pittsburgh is coming off a 70-17 win against the San Antonio Talons. Tommy Grady has passed for 718 yards and 15 touchdowns with two interceptions. Receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku has 25 catches with 260 yards and three scores.
Pittsburgh’s offense ranks fifth in scoring (57 ppg).
The game will be broadcast on 99.5 FM. ... The VooDoo placed former Archbishop Rummel placekicker Taylor Russolino on injured reserve. He’s replaced by Stefan Demos, a third-year AFL pro. Last week, Demos converted seven of eight extra points for Orlando’s game against the VooDoo.