There are merely 10 minutes standing between the Coppell football team and kickoff. On the sideline is senior manager Jackson Cusano.
While he jumps hyping up his teammates, his heart is palpitating. Are the screws tightened correctly? Are all the players padded up?
Being a manager in any sport, especially as a student, may seem easy with its fair share of perks. But it is not like that. When Cusano had the honor of taking up the position of team manager for the Cowboys, he grasped it and never looked back.
“It is definitely tough work,” Cusano said. “I have so much responsibility. If someone’s helmet pops off it’s my fault because I didn’t tighten it enough. But, I’m blessed to have the team and the coaches I have, helping me and allowing me to work with them.”
Cusano’s football story, however, started long before this position.
Back in third grade, Cusano started playing football for his dad, Mark Cusano. Mr. Cusano was a starting linebacker at USC and football meant the world to him. Jackson, however, kept his true feelings secret, never enjoying the sport. His only motivation to keep playing football was to use it as a way to connect with his dad.
“My personality isn’t the hard-hitting strong guy,” Jackson said. “I was more there for the boys, the experience and behind the scenes jobs than the actual gameplay.”
Jackson always had a colorful and caring personality. CHS Principal Laura Springer met Jackson when she was principal at Coppell Middle School East.
“He is just so kind to everyone, hard working, loyal, dependable and conscientious,” Springer said. “I am so blessed to have him around. He’s been in my life so long that he’s a shadow of me.”
Throughout middle school and his first two years of high school, Cusano pushed through his dislike for the game and continued to play football.
As the 2021-22 school year came to an end, Jackson finally found the strength to disclose to his father his choice to part ways with playing football.
“I was really worried that this would break our bond,” Jackson said. “Although I knew he was disheartened, he was very accepting of the fact and let me know that as long as I’m happy he’s happy.”
At this point in time, Jackson still didn’t know what was going to happen regarding his years of being a part of a football team.
“When he told me he was quitting football, I was definitely very disappointed,” Mr. Cusano said. “At the time I didn’t know what was going to happen to him regarding football.”
While everyone thought that he wouldn’t be a part of the football program anymore, Coppell coach Antonio Wiley had other plans.
“I saw that his care for football was not as much as his care for the students on this team,” Wiley said. “He sees his teammates as more than just athletes, he sees them as brothers. He sees the human side of them.”
Wiley also saw that he had a passion for education and service.
“He’s willing to go out of his way to help others despite any difficulty it may cause him,” Wiley said. “Being an educator is tough work. There will be scenarios when you have to make hard decisions and being the manager of a football team is the best thing that I believe could happen for Jackson.”
Wiley had the perfect roster spot for Jackson.
“He came to me one afternoon and told me that he loved what he saw leadership wise,” Jackson said. “He then offered me a spot on the team as a manager.”
Jackson was ecstatic to find out that he would be able to give back to the team and the field in a different aspect: helping his brothers and teammates.
“He helps us as much as he can,” junior quarterback Edward Griffin said. “He builds the locker room and brings energy when we are tired or when we need it.”
Utilizing his skills and versatility as team manager, Jackson sees himself pursuing a future in education with Springer as his role model. Joining Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE) his first year of high school, Jackson decided that being an educator was definitely the path for him.
“Looking back to when I was young, I always loved to help people out,” Jackson said. “I would go out of my way to ensure that everyone was getting the help they needed. This is what led me to my further aspiration to become an educator.”
Jackson realized that his connection to people and his strive for education is his true calling, something he will pursue indefinitely.
“Always follow your dreams and your passion,” Jackson said. “Don’t let anything or anyone decide who you are or your future ahead of you.”
Follow Namir Awan (@namir_awan) and @CHSCampusNews on X.