“Thank you for everything”

Devon Greene, Assistant Sports Editor

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Senior wide receiver Jaelon Acklin’s time in a Western Illinois University Leatherneck uniform was nothing short of tumultuous.

Acklin’s first three years were underwhelming as he only caught a total of 21 passes and two touchdowns. To say Acklin had a breakout season in his final outing as a Leatherneck would be an understatement.

Acklin surpassed his reception totals of all three years combined in only four games to start the season. In Western’s homecoming game, he caught 19 passes total, only two receptions short of all of the receptions he could get his hands around in his first three years as a Leatherneck. Even Acklin didn’t expect the production he was able to muster this season.

“I didn’t really expect this to be honest,” Acklin said. “I knew I had an opportunity to be good but I didn’t know that I was going to be able to put up the type of numbers that I was able to this season.”

Acklin became a staple and most dependable piece in the Purple and Gold’s offense this season and quarterback Sean McGuire displayed their otherworldly amount
of chemistry.

With four years under his belt as a member of the football program, Acklin can trace his best moment to week five of his final season. The Purple and Gold football team went to one of the most hostile environments in the FCS to take on a rival who they had lost the past five of six matchups and hadn’t won since 2010, the University of Northern Iowa Panthers.

After a masterful drive that put the Panthers up 29-25 with only 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Acklin and the Leatherneck offense had their work cut out for them if they wanted to get out of the UNI Dome victorious.

Western found themselves in a tough situation with a 3rd and 10 from their 20-yard line when Acklin’s number was called.

McGuire found Acklin streaking down the middle and the reliable hands of the senior receiver was able to snag the game winning touchdown with only six seconds left. Acklin said the catch was the best moment of his career as a Leatherneck and in the moments after, he could barely contain his emotions.

“It was like being in a dream or something,” Acklin said. “I kind of bursted out in tears because I know where I was at last year and the years before that and its crazy to think about what’s happening now.”

Acklin came up huge game after game and found himself rewriting the Leatherneck history books at the receiver position. He put together one of the greatest seasons in Leatherneck history as he finished first in receiving yards, catches, and fifth in receiving touchdowns. He also tied Leatherneck alum Lance Lenoir’s mark for most 100-yard games in a season with five. The 6-foot-1 receiver finished second in the FCS in receiving yards and was fifth in the FCS in receiving yards per game.

Of all the games, touchdowns and catches the senior receiver accounted for in his career, none of those things will be what he remembers most.

“I’ll probably remember the road trips,” Acklin said. “It was so much fun being a part of and spending time with the guys on the team.”

Acklin did plenty to leave his mark but in terms of a legacy, he wants to leave one of resilience and persistence for those who follow.

“Hopefully I leave a good legacy,” Acklin said. “I want people to remember and realize that I didn’t come there with anything. No one really talked about me, no one wrote articles or anything about me throughout my three years and I want people to know to not ever give up and if they’re not in a position that they want to be in, don’t point fingers at other people. You can make it, you’ve just got to change your lifestyle until you do.”

There is one thing that Acklin did not get to do in his time as a Leatherneck that stems back to his high school days.

“I wish I would’ve passed for a touchdown on a trick play or something,” Acklin said. “I was a high school quarterback so I wanted to show off my arm.”

Acklin had a prolific high school quarterback career, throwing for 67 touchdowns and finished with a quarterback rating of 116.2.

Even though his time as a Leatherneck is over, Acklin hopes to pursue his football career.

“If the opportunity presents itself,” Acklin said. “Hopefully things work out so I can but I’m not hanging my hat on that. I know the chances are slim.”

Only 1.5 percent of college football players go professional and Acklin has a future in mind if he doesn’t get the opportunity to take his playing career any farther.

“First, I have to finish my degree in psychology and my minor in law enforcement. Hopefully I can make my way up to the FBI, I think that would be a good career for me.”

Western played a big role in the life of Acklin and he hopes to maintain the relationships he built in his time playing in the football program.

“My time at Western was good,” Acklin said. “Coming in, I really didn’t know what to expect. No one in my family played college football and was never really able to experience it so I kind of went in with a blindfold. All the players became lifelong friends. I still room with Sean and he’s one of my best friends. It was great to build relationships not only with the players but the coaches as well, hopefully I can stay in contact with them.”

Leatherneck Nation helped out in Acklin’s career so much and he wanted to send his final goodbye to those who supported him while he was playing the game he loves.

“I just want to thank you for everything,” Acklin said. “Especially those who supported me along the way. Even whenever I was a third string wide receiver last year. I just want to say thank you for all the support and all that you did this year.”

Twitter: devondeadlysins

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