- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

On the night of Sept.21, after the Washington Redskins lost in overtime to the New York Giants, one of the Redskins’ assistant coaches scrambled to find offensive coordinator Hue Jackson in the hallways at FedEx Field and deliver the bad news:

It had happened again.

Jackson’s daughter, 9-year-old Jordyn, had suffered another seizure and was being rushed by ambulance to Loudoun Hospital Center. Jackson and wife, Michelle, were whisked away. What Jackson saw when he arrived in Leesburg still haunts him, the only memory from a frightening three-week period that makes tears come to his eyes.

“We drove all the way home to Loudoun to see a little girl that I didn’t know,” Jackson recalled yesterday, his voice growing hoarse. “She didn’t know me.”

A little more than two months later, Jordyn’s condition has improved substantially. Though Jackson declined to say what she ultimately was diagnosed with, he summed up her current situation with a look of relief and three words.

“Not over. Better.”

What an autumn it has been for the Redskins’ first-year coordinator. After being promoted by coach Steve Spurrier to first lieutenant of the Fun’n’Gun, Jackson was confronted by his daughter’s illness, which went undiagnosed for several weeks and at one point included 10 to 12 seizures a day; a two-week promotion to offensive playcaller; and this week an interview to become the coach at Duke.

“It’s not tough to deal with, but it has been different than most years,” Jackson said. “And it’s not so much because of the football. The football part of it, the work part of it, I can deal with. That’s what I do, and that’s what I’ve done for 18 years. But when things start to hit home and it unsettles your home life, it makes it really different.”

The Jacksons initially believed Jordyn had some form of asthma. She was diagnosed with bronchitis and given an inhaler. But one night Jordyn’s heart began racing. The Jacksons spent the night at Loudoun Hospital Center, and doctors were able to settle her heartbeat.

The “first big, true episode” occurred when Jackson was on the road at the Sept.14 victory against Atlanta. He called home after the Redskins improved to 2-0. Everyone was fine.

“Within the next 20 minutes, my wife called and told me the ambulance was coming to take her to the hospital,” Jackson said. “She had a seizure that was more violent than anything we had ever seen. … That was the first time I became very scared. … They were giving her Valium, and it did nothing. She’s a kid, and they gave her 11/2 [tablets] — and it did nothing. I went, ‘Whoa, you’ve got to be kidding me.’”

Jordyn was transferred to Children’s Hospital in the District, where Jackson spent the night. For nearly a week after Jordyn returned home, it seemed everything might be under control.

Then came the Giants game. By the time Jackson got to Loudoun that night, doctors had decided to transfer Jordyn to Children’s. Michelle rode in the ambulance, and he followed. Along the way, his cell phone rang.

“The ambulance called me and said, ‘We’ve got to go faster. The pain is too bad,’” Jackson said. “So I’m having to drive behind this ambulance, and I’m taking a chance because the cop’s going to pull me over. I didn’t care. I’m running red lights. And we get there, and we’re back where we were [not knowing her ailment].”

This time Jordyn spent four days at Children’s, undergoing all sorts of tests. Jackson praised Redskins owner Dan Snyder for being so involved, trying to make sure doctors ran every possible test. Jackson shuttled between Redskin Park and Children’s, coaching offense during the day and studying tape of Washington’s next opponent, New England, at the hospital at night.

“I was at a loss for words for everything,” Jackson said. “Because you’re here working. But your mind … sometimes when we were on the defensive side [in practice], my mind was with my kid. But when we were back on offense, I was able to stay with it and get it done. It was tough, but that’s what you do. This is my job.”

As Jackson recalled that frightening period, he emphasized the support he received from the Redskins organization — a club that, when it comes to football, has been as dysfunctional as any in recent years. According to Jackson, in no uncertain terms, the team’s heart is in the right place.

“I know now that there’s no question what everybody in this organization stands for,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of good people here. It has nothing to do with winning a game or losing a game, but it says something about winning in life. There are people who have more to them than just X’s and O’s or making a lot of money. They do care.”

The emotional roller coaster didn’t stop after Jordyn’s recovery. The Redskins soon entered a four-game losing streak that brought internal sniping and questions about Spurrier’s job security. Jackson asked for and was given playcalling duties after the Nov.2 loss at Dallas, and the team responded with a win over Seattle. But the offense struggled the following week at Carolina, and Spurrier reassumed the lead role on offense.

This week Jackson rose to prominence again after interviewing with Duke on Tuesday. Although there is some speculation that he is a long shot to land the job, he made it clear yesterday that he will become a head coach someday.

“My goal is to be a head coach,” Jackson said in his first comments on the interview. “And I think anybody who coaches in this profession, whether it be college or pro, you want to go as far as you can go and be the best you can be. That’s the goal I have. Whether it’s Duke or whether it’s somewhere else, I want that opportunity.”

Spurrier, who recommended Jackson for the Duke job that Spurrier held from 1987 to 1989, is confident his assistant will reach that goal.

“Hue is a good guy, a hard worker,” Spurrier said. “He loves everything about coaching, I’ll tell you. He’ll be a head coach someday.”

Needless to say, the Jacksons’ Thanksgiving two days ago, with Jordyn in such better shape, was a very special day.

“It was,” Jackson said. “Just the fact that she was there.”

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