Life changed things for Jamal Londry-Jackson.
The former Appalachian State quarterback now works at Georgia State, one of many Mountaineers playing some sort of role in the Panthers’ program. The teams square off on Saturday in a matchup of two teams in a four-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt Conference.
As much as he loved his time at App State, it’s clear where Londry-Jackson’s allegiance lies.
“At the end of the day: it’s life, man,” Londry-Jackson said in a phone interview. “It’s always interesting. Some of the guys here, they joked around, asked me who I’m cheering for this week.
“... It’s always going to be weird when you see your alma mater on the sidelines. But this is who I am right now. I gotta bleed blue.”
An Atlanta native, Londry-Jackson found his way back home and into college athletics. As an assistant academic adviser to the football team, he’s impacting the future of the players.
Really, it’s the type of job he wanted after his playing career ended. The path to get there, however, was more difficult than anticipated.
Londry-Jackson battled an autoimmune disease dating back to his time at App State. He tried to carve out a football career despite constantly being unhealthy with no clue why. It took two years before a doctor diagnosed the disease.
In 2012, his best passing season, Londry-Jackson tore his ACL and played with the injury during the team’s final three games. He had surgery to repair it after the season. After that, Londry-Jackson never felt the same.
The pressures of Londry-Jackson’s senior year already sat heavy on the quarterback. He kept noticing weight loss. He went from 212 pounds to 185 pounds. He had issues with his blood pressure. He would even start shaking from time to time.
Londry-Jackson couldn’t provide his typical impact in 2013, eventually losing his starting quarterback job to Kameron Bryant.
In the two seasons before, Londry-Jackson set himself up to potentially become one of the greatest passers in Mountaineers history. As a redshirt sophomore, he took over for an injured DeAndre Presley and started the final seven games of the season. Londry-Jackson passed for more than 2,000 yards and had 22 total touchdowns.
The next year, he threw for 3,278 yards and 21 touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes. Londry-Jackson was 13 yards short of breaking the school’s single-season passing record, held by Armanti Edwards.
That early success made his fight even more maddening. He tried to get his weight back up for NFL workouts. By March of 2014, he’d gotten back up to 204 pounds. He went undrafted but still had prospects. He got sick again before a workout with the Atlanta Falcons, and fell back into the 180s again.
Londry-Jackson played in the Indoor Football League after college and followed that with a season in Finland in 2015. All the while, he still felt sick and had no clue why.
In November 2015, Londry-Jackson made his way to an urgent care after yet another rough day. He went through many tests that eventually led to a diagnosis: Graves’ disease, which is caused by the excessive production of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland.
Symptoms include a racing heartbeat, hand tremors, trouble sleeping, weight loss, muscle weakness and heat intolerance.
Finally, Londry-Jackson had an answer. The disease not only hacked away at his body, but it cut down his best chance at the NFL. After a year of trying to get his hormone levels down, he had his thyroid removed in September of 2016.
“That kind of derailed or shortened my path because I was never fully healthy,” Londry-Jackson said. “From that span of my senior year, something like 2013, until I had surgery last September.
“That three-year span, especially during the most pivotal time of my athletic career, I just had stuff kind of pile up on me as far as tearing my knee and not coming back as strong as I wanted to.”
Londry-Jackson last played for the Austria Danube Dragons, returning in the summer of 2016. When he got back to Atlanta, he began thinking about other options for work. He contacted family friend Michael Stovall.
Stovall is the assistant athletics director for career services and life skills at Georgia State. He’s also a former wide receiver at Savannah State.
Stovall knew the overseas career wouldn’t last long and wanted to help Londry-Jackson into the next phase, whatever that might be.
“Sometimes a lot of guys that have a great talent, they kind of push people away,” Stovall said. “And it seems like people around Jamal almost came to him, just like a magnet.”
Londry-Jackson expected to play professional football again, but he focused on Georgia State after conversations with Stovall. Londry-Jackson decided to commit his efforts toward student-athletes and a degree. Londry-Jackson is one year into a two-and-a-half year master’s degree in teaching.
The removal of the thyroid gland wasn’t the final leg of Londry-Jackson’s battle. He still has Graves’ disease and will remain on medicine the rest of his life to help, but things are far better than they used to be.
“Battles are meant to be fought,” Londry-Jackson said. “I still have a few days every now and then, but the one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t let certain things dictate or defeat you.”