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Here's the Real Crime

O.k., you're Lancaster (Texas) High wide receiver Brandon Jackson and it's about time for the game to start. Shoulder pads? Check. Helmet? Check. Court-ordered electronic ankle monitor? Check.

Jackson, 17, wears the ankle monitor so the cops know where he is at all times. That's because he's awaiting an Oct. 17 trial on six counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, each of which carries a sentence of five years to life if he's convicted. According to police reports, in two incidents on Jan. 18 Jackson and accomplices robbed six men of $270 at gunpoint, punched one victim and fired a shot at him as he ran, and pistol-whipped another.

So that pretty much ought to end his high school football career, right? After all, according to reports made after his arrest, Jackson admitted in writing to being the gunman in both holdups and to assaulting two of the victims. (Jackson's lawyer is disputing elements of the police reports.)

"The situation I'm in, I put myself in," Jackson said in Aug. 10 editions of The Dallas Morning News. "... I feel bad for the family I hurt by doing this."

I mean, at my high school the coach kicked guys off the team for not wearing a tie on game day. But did all this end Jackson's career? Nope.

Well, it did end his career at his former school, North Mesquite High. The picky coach there, Steve Bragg, has a policy of not playing guys who are out of jail on $45,000 bail. Bragg has kicked guys off for missing practice.

Knowing that, Jackson didn't even try to go back to North Mesquite. Neither did his teammate Travon Wilson, who also took part in the robberies. Wilson pleaded guilty to all six aggravated robbery counts, and in June got 10 years' probation and 120 days at the Dallas County Jail in a work-release program.

Luckily, in this country, where shame is on permanent holiday, there are bleachers full of football coaches willing to give youngsters facing six-count felony charges another chance. Especially youngsters who are all-district, such as Jackson and Wilson.

Both players found new teams, no problem. Jackson is practicing with Lancaster. Wilson is practicing with Dallas Skyline, though it's unclear whether he will play.

At Lancaster, Jackson could see time at wide receiver, quarterback, cornerback, free safety, punt returner and kick returner. The thinking must be, Wear the kid out and he'll be too tired to rob anybody.

This is a rarity in football.

Quarterback: O.K., Brandon, you go long!

Jackson: I can't.

Quarterback: Why not?

Jackson: The ankle monitor only lets me go 40 yards.

What is Lancaster coach Andrew Jackson (no relation) thinking by letting this kid play? Don't know. He didn't return my calls. Neither did the school's principal. But Sadd Jackson, the coach's brother and an assistant coach at Lancaster, explained it this way: "We're trying to do what's best for the kid. Holding him back isn't going to help him.... This kid could play football on Saturdays! ... That's an opportunity you don't want to take away from him."

Ohhh, I get it. If Dante the backup kicker robs six people at gunpoint, he should be kicked off because he's not going to play in college. But if there's a full ride at stake, who are we to discipline a star?

Actually, these guys are doing the exact opposite of what's "best for the kid." What's best for the kid is making him pull weeds for four hours every game, giving him a lot of time to think about the boneheaded thing he did. Hey, Jackson is reported to be a 3.5 student. He'll learn.

Guarantee you, if Jackson doesn't get tossed in jail, there'll be busloads of college coaches willing to let him play Saturdays for them. If Machine Gun Kelly could've run a 4.40 to the post, they'd have signed him.

So Jackson still gets to be the hero, cheered by pom-pom girls, his picture in the morning paper. And why not? Have you looked around lately?

The Vancouver Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi broke the neck of the Colorado Avalanche's Steve Moore in a flat-out, cheap-shot mugging, and he's back in the NHL even though Moore still hasn't returned to the ice. Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers knocked a couple of cameramen around and was suspended for a crummy 13 games. Terrell Owens told his coach to shut up and called his quarterback a hypocrite, and he's back with the Philadelphia Eagles sans apology. Why should we be harder on our kids?

So if you're worried that letting a kid play football while wearing a court-ordered electronic ankle bracelet is a bad idea, don't be.

It's not as if it affects his routes.

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Facing six counts of aggravated robbery--that ought to end a kid's high school football career, right? Nope.