Last week, 10-year-old Jackson Way went from being a face in the crowd to being the face of Alabama football fandom.


Like many University of Alabama fans, Jackson and his mother, Leigh Anne Way, waited Jan. 9 as the Crimson Tide arrived in Tuscaloosa after the team's national championship game victory over the University of Georgia.


As fans gathered at the Mal [...]

Last week, 10-year-old Jackson Way went from being a face in the crowd to being the face of Alabama football fandom.

Like many University of Alabama fans, Jackson and his mother, Leigh Anne Way, waited Jan. 9 as the Crimson Tide arrived in Tuscaloosa after the team's national championship game victory over the University of Georgia.

As fans gathered at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility on the UA campus, Leigh Anne briefly left her 10-year-old son to find a better spot to see the team. After finding a location, she turned around to find her son being interviewed by a TV news crew.

At the time, reporter Chris Davis was interviewing Alabama fans for WHNT, the CBS affiliate in Huntsville. Davis had only asked Jackson a couple of questions before the Verner Elementary School fourth-grader went into a detailed analysis of the national championship game.

"After the second half, we had to go in (as) a completely different team," Jackson told Davis early in the interview. "Our defense started to get worn out and this is not what we used to be against Clemson."

From there, Jackson gave long descriptions of why he thought quarterback Jalen Hurts was taken out of the game after halftime, what made Tua Tagovailoa a strong quarterback and what led to the game's final score of 26-23.

"I think I only got four questions in," said Davis, who will be starting a new job as a reporter at the NBC affiliate KSDK in St. Louis next week. "He just gave the complete analysis and it all worked."

Initially, Davis posted a minute-long clip on social media of Jackson’s interview, thinking it might get some attention from viewers in and around Huntsville. However, he was not prepared for how far the interview would resonate  outside Alabama.

Within days of the interview being broadcast and published online by WHNT, Jackson’s interview was shared by thousands across Facebook and Twitter, even getting picked up for stories by ESPN and USA Today. As of Tuesday, the interview with WHNT had been viewed more than 2 million times on Facebook.

"It appears this kid might have a bright future either as a coach or an analyst," ESPN staff writer Sam Khan Jr. wrote in a piece about Jackson.

Davis thinks what made Jackson's story so special was how passionate he was about football and how his enthusiasm had informed his views.

"When you talk to fans, you can tell they’ve learned so many words to describe their team, but that wasn’t the case with Jackson," Davis said. "You could tell that he had studied the game and thought about things the average fan didn't talk about."

Leigh Anne said she and her husband Michael are still processing how millions of people have seen their son and now know his name.

"It’s been great, but we’ll be glad when it dies down a little bit," she said.

Jackson has always been a talker, Leigh Anne said. 

"Before his second birthday, he knew his alphabet and could point out different letters in the newspaper and sound them out," she said.

Jackson said he has been an Alabama fan since he was six years old and really started paying attention to college football during the 2012 season, which culminated with Alabama beating Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship.

"I’ve always loved Alabama," said Jackson, who went to four games this year and collects memorabilia from past teams.

Jackson said he often strikes up conversations with fans of the opposing team at Alabama games.

"I just like to talk to other people who have an interest in football," he said.

Jackson said Alabama football has become a big part of his life. If he’s not rewatching games his family has taped, he’s giving his analysis to his friends at school.

"My friends and I like to talk about Alabama football on Mondays after the game," he said.

However, Jackson’s analytical mind encompasses more passions than just Alabama football. For a start, there’s "Star Wars" and the issues he had with the prequel trilogy.

" ‘Attack of the Clones’ was the worst movie in the series," he said. "It was all over the place."

His football analysis also caught the attention of Eli Gold, the radio announcer for Crimson Tide sports. Jackson got to meet Gold and talked the longtime broadcaster at Coleman Coliseum.

"I was really excited to meet him," Jackson said. "I think he should be on TV."

Jackson hopes to be a sports broadcaster, like Gold, or football analyst when he gets older.

Sometime this week, WHNT will air a special program featuring Jackson and his love of Alabama football. The interview will be posted online following its TV broadcast.

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Reach Drew Taylor at drew.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.