Lake fireman inducted into San Jose State Hall of Fame
Brad Jackson’s buried history as a U.S. national water polo team player who battled the Russians in the early ’70s is a no longer a secret — at least, not to his former classmates and co-workers.
Roger Koeck, formerly Jackson’s co-worker at South Lake Tahoe Fire Department Station No. 3 and a San Jose State University alum, was thumbing through his quarterly alumnus magazine when he found Jackson’s picture from 30 years ago.
It’s a black and white portrait of Jackson in action in the pool — a water polo snapshot of a young man with poise and focus staring right into the camera’s lens.
The photo accompanies a brief story that tells why Jackson, now a 23-year career fireman with Station No. 3, will soon become part of San Jose State University’s sports history.
Jackson will be formerly recognized Nov. 8 as part of the University’s 2002 sports Hall of Famers.
Indeed, Jackson’s water polo accomplishments are many. He may still bleed San Jose’s blue and gold, as the story goes, but he has little more than the memory of that now, and the memory of playing against the Russians in Moscow in 1973.
But Jackson’s water polo fame started long before that.
It began when he was still in high school at Corona Del Mar in Newport Beach, Calif.
“They had the best polo program in the nation. They could have beaten 85 percent of the colleges. They never lost a game and they had a lot of really good players,” recalls Jackson, who turns 50 this October, but sounds like he could be pushing 25.
It was during those years that Jackson caught the eye of Lee Walton, who, according to Jackson, is the kind of man who makes dreams become reality.
Walton convinced Jackson to apply to SJSU and to join the water polo program.
During the next four years, Jackson’s University performance earned him three All-American honors between 1971 and 1973, as well as scholar athlete all four years. He also earned a place on a U.S. national water polo team in ’73.
When Jackson joined the U.S. team they traveled to Moscow for two weeks for the World University Games — “the Olympic Games for college kids,” as Jackson calls them.
Jackson was at an impressionable age. The world superpowers were still rebuilding relations stretching back to the Cold War, and the World University Games, organized by the International University Sports Federation, were right at the center.
It was an exciting time, and an exciting achievement for Jackson.
“We lucked out. We barely medaled,” Jackson says of his third-place finish. “The one reason we did so well is we had a really good goalie … he actually played for San Jose State … and David Hammond just played out of his mind. And later on he became, arguably, one of the best goalies in the world.”
The Russian team defeated the U.S., and eventually earned the gold medal.
Jackson’s water polo career ended after college, but his love of athletics didn’t.
Jackson competed in the World Triathlon Championships four times, and finished the New Zealand Longest Day event — running, cycling and kayaking from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean — in 13 hours.
After competing in triathlons for 20 years, he now enjoys technical rock and ice climbing and traveling the world to fish and hunt.
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