On Saturday, Northwestern will face off against Maryland in a rousing game of college football. Along with the weight of back-to-back losses — and their mascot who resembles a kinky fursuit to an unsettling degree — the Wildcats will be bringing their star running back, Justin Jackson.
Jackson has made quite a name for himself over the years. A first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016, he's rushed for 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons and is currently on pace to break Northwestern's all-time rushing record. But his name means nothing here in College Park. Well, at least his version of the name doesn't.
You see, when the Wildcats arrive at Maryland, the number of Division I athletes named Justin Jackson on campus will grow from one to two. Of course the Justin Jackson that was here first is one of the young stars on the men's basketball team who will look to usher in a new era for the Terps.
In an ideal world, the Big Ten would implement some sort of competition between both athletes to determine who was the superior namesake. But it's 2017 and ideals are dead. Instead, the greater Justin Jackson will be determined by a thorough, five-category test that answers some of the most important questions of who the better athlete is. For the sake of clarity, the running back will be known as Wildcat Justin, while the forward will be known as Terp Justin.
Category 1: Who has scored the most points?
Folks, this is America, where the only thing people love more than tailgating and fireworks is points and offense. Ever wonder why sports like soccer and hockey aren't as popular in the United States as they are around the world? Simple: scoring. We don't want to sit on our couches for hours just to see goals happen twice in a 2-0 win. We'd rather see a dominant 63-17 victory with touchdowns on touchdowns to cheer about.
Both players are familiar with putting points on the board. Throughout his career, Wildcat Justin has found the end zone 35 times for 210 total points, or 4.9 points per game. Terp Justin, however, finished his freshman year averaging 10.5 points per game in 33 contests, for a whopping total of 347 points.
Winner: The numbers tell the story and give Terp Justin the nod here. He reached his namesake's current career points total just 21 games into his freshman campaign.
Score: 1-0, Terp Justin
Category 2: Whose mans is each player’s team?
"Whose mans" — or more formally, "whose mans is this" — is a phrase uttered when someone wants to know who is claiming responsibility for a particular person, or group of people, that has done something of note. In social situations, it usual has a negative tone, like "who brought this obnoxious person to the party," but in sports the question is asked to determine who the man of the team is.
Wildcat Justin has been an offensive leader for Northwestern since his breakout freshman season. In the spring of his junior year, he took the time to coach the younger running backs on the team to help them grow as players. He also chose to come back for his senior year because he wanted to fine-tune his own skills and finish his degree, according to ESPN.
Terp Justin is in a different situation. As one of the three up-and-coming stars on the Terps men's basketball team, he'll have to share his role as the "mans" of the squad with guards Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan. This doesn't even account for upperclassmen such as Jared Nickens or Michal Cekovsky who have been in College Park longer than Terp Justin.
Winner: Veteran leadership beats out sharing the spotlight in this case so Wildcat Justin gets the round
Score: 1-1, Tie
Category 3: Who has more useful athletic abilities?
Let me start this by saying in no way am I comparing athletes in two different sports to reach a conclusion about which is better. Football and basketball players should each be admired for their actions on the field, or court, against opponents who have also trained in their respective sports.
That being said, the skills used in some sports definitely translate better in real life scenarios than others. Let's take a look at this run Wildcat Justin made against Iowa last season:
You have to feel for those defenders. Their parents were probably in the crowd and got to witness one man just humiliate them on national TV. But what good is that skill in the real world? How often do you find yourself face-to-face with a team of individuals trying to physically bring you down as you try to get to your destination? Unless you frequently shoplift from malls, it's kind of a rare occurrence.
Now compare that to this tip-in Terp Justin made against Oklahoma State last season:
While most people see an impressively athletic tip-in about a foot above the rim, I see a first responder whose long arms can help kids get their Frisbees out of trees, a nursing home worker who can help the elderly grab things from high shelves or an exterminator that can personally kill any unwanted pests on lofty ceilings.
Winner: Terp Justin's skills will be useful to him both on and off the court. Wildcat Justin's will not.
Score: 2-1, Terp Justin
Category 4: Who represents more when they play?
When an athlete puts on their team's uniform, particularly in a collegiate or professional setting, they're representing not only themselves, but also the institutions and communities they used to be a part of. Both Wildcat and Terp Justin know a thing or two about putting on for the city — or even country — they were scouted from.
Terp Justin, a Toronto native, shows out as one of Canada's finest athletic products whenever he does well in a Maryland jersey, testifying to the talent our neighbors up north have on a basketball court. Wildcat Justin, born and raised in Carol Stream, Illinois, is a homestate hero; he's been at Northwestern long enough to definitely represent the school when he makes his expected jump to the NFL.
Winner: Tie. While Terp Justin might not be the face of his school/state like Wildcat Justin, he's representing a whole country, which brings the decision to a stalemate.
Score: 2-1-1, Terp Justin
Category 5: Who’d be more fun to play in an NCAA video game that totally doesn’t capitalize on using student athlete likenesses?
Anyone who has played any recent iteration of a football video game knows that the running game has been snuffed to smithereens. In an attempt to make the game more "realistic," the slightest contact between a running back and their lineman will now result in a butt-fumble-esque fall and a one-yard loss. No matter how good Wildcat Justin becomes in the pros, bad coding will limit his virtual success.
Basketball video games, on the other hand, value tall forwards with a large wingspan to spam the steal button on defense, and a three-point shooting ability to abuse on offense. This gives Terp Justin the chance to become a hidden gem in a future edition of 2K.
Winner: Unless you like annoying yourself to the point where you want to break your controller, Terp Justin will be a better choice in a video game.
Score: 3-1-1, Terp Justin.
Both Justin Jacksons will find success in their respective sports because of their abilities, persistence and supporting cast of teammates and coaches. Unfortunately, there can only be one good Justin Jackson, and he plays for the University of Maryland.