TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Shawn Jackson said he was encouraged by one of his McLain High School teachers to see the big picture.
This was the picture inside McLain's auditorium on a recent Tuesday morning.
Jackson returned to his alma mater for an assembly, and students watched him be honored as the "our guy" who did good.
"It doesn't even seem real," he told the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/NUJtet).
McLain wanted to express real appreciation for Jackson because he graduated from student-athlete to positive role model in the community.
As a collegiate linebacker the past four seasons, Jackson set University of Tulsa records for sacks and tackles for loss. He ended his career as Conference USA's defensive player of the year and - remember how he was challenged to see the big picture? - he said he will graduate in May.
Only one player (Nelson Coleman) in TU history collected more career tackles than Jackson.
Has any TU football player ever collected more proclamations in one day?
Four came Jackson's way (he said his mom will find a place for them) during the assembly, courtesy of the Tulsa City Council, the mayor's office and two branches of state government.
"I came to read a proclamation about a hero," City Councilor Jack Henderson said, adding that he doesn't know Jackson personally. But...
"He is one of my heroes," Henderson said. "Any time one of the young people in my district does great things, it's a hero to me."
Jackson said he was humbled by the love shown to him at the assembly. Was he nervous when his turn at the microphone arrived? Sure.
"But once I started talking, I just spoke from the heart," he said. "I wanted to get the message across to the kids that you can make it from this community."
Jackson thanked his family and coaches (all the way back to Little League) for putting him on the right path.
Many former coaches were in attendance, including another McLain favorite son, Shea Seals, who was seated on stage next to Jackson.
Seals, a former TU basketball player, coached Jackson for two seasons in hoops. Seals said Jackson created his own position.
"We called him a PPG," Seals said. "The PPG is the power point guard because he was a point guard that had the savvy to run a ballclub and also the strength and size of a power forward, so he was very much an asset for us."
Seals also said Jackson was fully committed to being the best person and player he could be, adding there was something "special" about the young man.
Coincidentally, TU football coach Bill Blankenship said during a pre-assembly interview: "I think the word special gets used too much. But Shawn is special."
McLain basketball coach Cordell Love used the words "loyal" and "coachable" when describing Jackson, saying he's a kid any coach would love to have.
John Phillips apparently agreed. Phillips coached Jackson at McLain after serving as TU's basketball coach. Phillips urged the Golden Hurricane to look at Jackson as a football prospect, according to Blankenship.
When Blankenship attended one of Jackson's high school basketball games, even the refs recommended Jackson to the football coach.
"You couldn't find anybody who wasn't a believer in Shawn Jackson," Blankenship said.
Seals spoke as if Jackson wants to make belief contagious.
"He reaches out to the guys around him, the guys he grew up with and the kids that watched him, and they follow in his footsteps," Seals said.
"The kids that come from (feeder schools) and go to McLain see that there is a way out and see that there are opportunities if you stay focused and stay on track.
"I think when they see one of their own come from the same background they come from and actually get a football scholarship or a scholarship to a Division I college and actually have a chance to play professionally, they see that and it gives them hope."
Jackson said it can be difficult to grow up in his community, but the community made him tough.
"I put the tough with the smarts," he said.
"You put the two together, and I did it in a positive way. I feel like a lot of other kids can do that. Instead of being ... silly tough, be smart tough. There's a difference."
Jackson said he doesn't want to be from anywhere else.
The feeling's mutual.
Hugs, which came one after another, were evidence that McLain doesn't want Jackson to be from anywhere else.