TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Internet sensation Jackson Way got the chance to meet one of his idols thanks to his expert analysis of the National Championship game.
Jackson's football journey began early by learning the basics from his parents, Leigh Anne and Michael, who are now learning from him.
“I know very little about football. Most of everything that you’ve heard I had no idea. I just hope people don’t think that it’s me talking because he is the one who figures all this out on his own and it’s amazing,” said his father.
He and his friends often play their own bowl games in his backyard, making sure to wear the jerseys and helmets of the competing teams, of course! “I actually started to learn all the rules by age six. I taught one of my friends how to play and I started playing at age six and he was age four at the time so we had a lot of fun by now he can beat me,” said Jackson.
"I like it, it’s pretty cool and I hope that some people hear my ideas," he commented. And it seems one very important person was listening: Eli Gold. For those who may not know, Gold has been the radio voice of the Crimson Tide for the last 30 years. He wanted to meet the kid who some said could follow in his footsteps.
Gold was at Coleman Coliseum one afternoon, set to announce the women's basketball game. As Jackson and I walked through the stadium, I asked what he was planning to say. Jackson had no idea!
Gold welcomed Jackson with a smile. Jackson extended his hand and gave a firm handshake; a wide grin on his face the whole way through. It was the only time that day I saw Jackson at a loss for words.
Gold gave Jackson some pointers and welcomed him into an “exclusive club," sitting him down at the broadcaster table and showing him the ropes.
Jackson tested out his skills, calling the last play of the National Championship game when Tua Tagovailoa threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Devanta Smith.
In a truly touching moment, Gold let Jackson hold his championship ring from the last title
Alabama won in 2016 against Clemson. Jackson marveled at the significance of the ring and the hard work that was put into making it. And if he wants to be the next Eli Gold, there is more work to be done. But that's Jackson. “Like that’s like what I do. That’s me,” Jackson said plainly.
For kids like Jackson, Gold has some age-old advice. “Practice, practice, practice. If there’s a playground near the Von Braun center and there are 10 kids playing basketball, you may not know them, just stand there and do the play-by-play.”
Lucky for Jackson, he got a lesson from the best. We ended the day with a unison "touchdown Alabama" and of course, a "Roll Tide."
Jackson's Crimson Tide pride comes from generations of dedicated fans. "Both granddads, they are at all the games. They're both season ticket holders," explained his mom.
Both sides are keeping the tradition alive by passing down important Bama mementos. "What I take pride in most is the football signed by Paul "Bear" Bryant that my Papa gave me," Jackson said proudly.
And something less tangible, but just as important has been passed down -- an important family title. "I think he might be the biggest Bama fan now. Don't you think?" Leigh Anne asked Michael. "Yeah, I think grown, he's probably grown into that role," he replied.
While his favorite subject is science, Jackson has worked his expert knowledge of the game into his school day. "I officiated at school, and they told the coach how good I was, and he actually gave me a flag from the Turkey Bowl," he said with pride.
And many on Facebook tried to tell another coach about the 10-year-old's talent. Jackson had a few words of advice for Nick Saban's next season. “I think that we need to get like a good four wide receivers that are like stats similar to Jerry Jeudy.”
But the Tide can be sure, they will always have Jackson's support.
When I brought up the controversial billboard paid for by UCF fans to challenge Bama's title, Jackson jumped to his team's defense. “No way. I mean you just try us. I hope, I hope that we face them,” he challenged.
Fighting words from "Bama's Biggest Little Fan."