Why Utah quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson was the best choice for the Ty Jordan/Aaron Lowe Memorial Scholarship

Jackson says he will not “lose faith” after falling on the Utes’ depth chart.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Ja'Quinden Jackson (3) runs for a touchdown as the University of Utah hosts Washington State, NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

When it came time to vote for this season’s recipient of the Ty Jordan/Aaron Lowe Memorial Scholarship, Ja’Quinden Jackson was the obvious choice.

After all, the third-year sophomore quarterback had known Jordan since the eighth grade. When Jackson decided to transfer out of the University of Texas after his freshman season in 2020, Jordan was a driving force in getting him to Utah.

Jackson committed to Utah just five days before Jordan’s death from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“It still takes a toll on me,” he said Monday. “There are days when I’m not feeling it. Days when I’m happy and that has a lot to do with reflecting on how A-Lowe carried himself after Ty died. He was a strong, independent person. He played for Ty, he lived for Ty, so now I want to do this for them.”

Jackson had become close with Lowe, Jordan’s friend and high school teammate, upon the former’s arrival in Salt Lake City in January 2021. Then Lowe was shot and killed Sept. 26 outside a house party in Sugar House.

Those obvious connections between Jackson, Jordan, and Lowe have been well-documented, making him an easy pick for the scholarship, but his teammates had to agree.

The scholarship is “completely a player vote and there really are no parameters other than guys who you think should be representing the spirit of those two players as far as the spirit of competition, the personalities,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday. “Just everything they embodied and what they were about. Who do you think is the person that should be that representative?”

Jackson’s own vote went to cornerback Clark Phillips III. The vast majority of the Utes, however, believed the quarterback was the most deserving.

“It was a fairly large margin between him and the next one,” Whittingham said.

Said Jackson: “It’s an honor. As much as they worked, and how hard they worked, and how I looked at A-Lowe, how he pushed forward after Ty died, it’s an honor for me to honor those guys this year. I’m going to enjoy repping the guys this year.”

The establishment of what was originally the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship was announced on Jan. 5, 2021. It was to be awarded to the “student-athlete in the football program who exemplifies the inspiring qualities that Jordan displayed through his work ethic, positivity and perseverance through adversity.” Lowe was the first recipient of the scholarship.

Utah quarterback Cam Rising said Jackson’s work ethic and mindset made him deserving of this year’s scholarship.

“He comes to work with the right mindset each and every day. He just embodies what it means to have that 22% and really hone in on getting 22% better,” Rising said. “And yeah, it also helps that he was close to those guys, but I think that’s why he embodies it so well.”

As the No. 7 Utes prepare to open the season Saturday night at the University of Florida (5 p.m., ESPN), Jackson is working still, despite his position within the quarterbacks room having taken a hit.

With Utah releasing its first two-deep depth chart on Monday morning, third-year sophomore walk-on Bryson Barnes was revealed as Rising’s backup. Jackson will serve as the third-string QB on Saturday in Gainesville.

“JJ, we still believe in JJ,” Whittingham said Monday. “He still has a lot of football ahead of him and is certainly a tremendous athlete, is a true dual-threat.”

Jackson on Monday afternoon was asked what his mindset is now with the QB2 decision and what he can do to remain focused with a game coming on Saturday.

His reaction to that question said everything anyone needed to know. The disappointment was clear, but his message was positive.

“Just do what I can to make my teammates better, that’s really it,” Jackson said.

The quarterback also took to Twitter to share his mindset going forward.

“I’m not gone (sic) lose faith,” he wrote, “everything happen for a reason”.