Simone Jackson and a Trojan legacy

Simone Jackson dribbles past TCU defenders.
Sophomore forward Simone Jackson has started all 10 games for the Trojans, tallying 5 goals and 2 assists so far this season. (Tomoki Chien | Daily Trojan)

Simone Jackson first found the soccer field at age four playing for the Orange Butterfly team in the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) team. Her athletic potential was apparent in one of her first games, as a relentless scoring spree led to her coach making a rule that she could not pass the halfline for the remainder of the game. This was a mistake no other coach would make, and it was ultimately the catalyst in her joining club soccer at age six. Jackson was born with a fighting spirit and her unstoppable ambition was reinforced by the faith of her family. 

“My family is my why,” Jackson, a sophomore majoring in business administration and cinematic arts, said. She wears the number 80, a jersey number that has been passed down through generations like a family heirloom. The Jackson family name is scattered throughout USC athletics history. Jackson’s grandfather, John Jackson Senior, was the USC offensive coordinator from 1976-81, winning a national championship in 1978.  Jackson’s father, John Jackson Junior, was a part of the Trojan football family as a player and then broadcaster, and her older brother, John Jackson III, is currently a wide receiver in his senior season. 

As student-athletes, the Jackson siblings’ lives are intertwined at USC in more ways than one. 

“I see him in the training room. When he’s recovering, I’m recovering. When he’s working hard, I’m working hard. We push ourselves, and when I have extra food, I’m like ‘Okay, come over,’” Jackson said. 

While a brother-sister dynamic may be a nuisance for some, Jackson sees going to college alongside her brother as “truly a blessing.” 

The newest generation of the Jackson family wearing cardinal and gold is ready to surpass the members who came before them. But despite the stellar athletic accomplishments of her relatives, Jackson is not trapped in the shadows of their success — she is building a legacy of her own.  

Since 2016, Jackson has found success playing on the coveted United States Youth National team. While Jackson earned her spot at a young age, her journey did not come without any challenges. A turning point in her athletic career came after being cut from the national team at age 15, as she was ranked in the bottom two during technical testing.

“I still remember that rejection and feeling and the drive that it pushes you. I know it sounds so funny because I was so young, but that sticks with you and it makes you want to work even harder,” Jackson said. “And now, I can look back and say that I was grateful for it because it reminds you [that] your spot is never your spot. It’s always a privilege to represent your country and to keep working and to never become complacent and always look to get better, one percent every day.”

After this experience, Jackson quickly earned her spot back and is now a member of the U-20 team, and joined the American team in Costa Rica for the World Cup this past summer. 

“It was such a big deal because when you grind for something for so long and you put it on your calendar for so long, and you finally reach that destination. It’s just such a special experience because hard work is really paying off,” Jackson said.

Not only did she make the roster and step onto an international stage, Jackson brought pride to the name she wore on her back by scoring against Japan in the 70th minute.  

“When you score in the World Cup, it just means something different because you can score at home and that’s great, but when you score on a world stage, it means you’re one of the best to ever do it,” Jackson said. 

Embarking on her freshman year at USC, Jackson wasted no time making a name for herself. She started eight games, played in all 20 and contributed with five goals and eight assists. Her sophomore season has consisted of 10 games thus far, in which Jackson has scored five goals, adding two assists. She has proven to be a key player on the team. It’s clear when the Redondo Beach native steps on the field, tides turn in favor of the Trojans. 

“I think three minutes into her coming back from the World Cup, she ripped a shot against TCU, which totally changed the momentum of the game,” said Head Coach Jane Alukonis. “I’ve had teams anywhere from young club teams to college teams. There’s something different about Simone that has just a deep desire to score, to change games.”

But being an admirable athlete is just a fraction of what sets Jackson apart, as her potential is not limited to just her athletic abilities. Jackson knows how to lead others not just with a soccer ball at her feet, but also in student organizations off the pitch. She was the co-founder and co-president of the Black Student Union at her high school, and at USC, she serves as president of the SC Missions Team and member of the United Black Student Athlete Association.

Alukonis said that Jackson is “literally always doing something to better herself.” 

“She’s just one that you never know what she’s going to be up to, but always just trying to contribute, whether it’s volunteer work or something professional, but super interesting person and very driven and professional,” Alukonis said. 

At only 19 years of age, Jackson can now call herself a Nike athlete — a title that is not just a reflection of who she is today, but a testament to the dedication of her younger self. Being a Nike athlete reminds Simone of “that little girl who always put Nike shoes on her Christmas wish-list.” 

 Being a part of the Nike family puts Jackson’s name next to some of the greatest athletes of all time: Serena Williams and Michael Jordan are two of her favorites. 

“I’m blessed and I’m honored,” said Jackson. “Nike reaches so far beyond sports. I genuinely feel like they’re one of the most progressive brands there is to be attached to. I think that this partnership is going to be long lasting, and filled with love.” 

Jackson is not limiting herself to one path. As an athlete, Jackson hopes to play for Angel FC in her professional career. 

“If the game was tied or if we needed kind of like the last dig to come pull us out. She was always the one doing it,” said Alukonis. 

As an entertainer, Jackson’s “dream outside of soccer would be to maybe write, direct and if I can’t be the talent, then I’ll help the talent and get into entertainment law.” 

There are no boundaries in the future accomplishments of Jackson. 

Jackson does not just have dreams, but she has the innate instinct to accomplish them. Next time you read her name it may be in front of the words “lawyer,” “actor,” “director” or “international champion.” Regardless of which path Simone Jackson chooses to pursue, a Trojan legacy will follow.