The University of Oregon community lost a legend.
Charlie Jackson, head coach of the university’s men’s club lacrosse team, passed away in his sleep on Feb. 11 at the age of 43.
The 2020 season marked Jackson’s second with the Ducks after leading them to an 8-5 record and a conference title in 2019. Jackson’s coaching career also included longer stints at Chico State and San Diego State, where he spent three and four seasons, respectively, tallying a total of 79 wins.
For those who knew Jackson, he was much more than a coach. He was a motivator, a passionate, warm-hearted and caring soul that those close to him will miss dearly. Throughout his life, he touched the lives of many. Whether through his passion for the game of lacrosse or his strong ability to connect and communicate with others, Jackson made a positive impact on all those near to him.
Until 2019, Jackson was living in Southern California and coaching at San Diego State. This changed in one phone call, and it didn’t take too much convincing. Jackson relished the opportunity to come to Eugene and coach the Ducks.
“He got the opportunity to coach us and then, at the drop of a hat, came here from San Diego with two bags packed right away,” Ducks senior faceoff specialist Tyson Johnson said.
Senior Jack Thoren added, “He was living in an Airbnb for at least a month.”
Without anything in place, Jackson uprooted his life for the exciting opportunity to coach at Oregon.
“Right off the bat, his enthusiasm for the program was felt,” Thoren said.
Upon his arrival in Eugene, his players noticed a key element of his character: his passion, not only toward lacrosse, but toward his relationships with others. He valued much more than just lacrosse; he cared about each and every one of his players on a personal level that extended off the field and into their personal lives.
Thoren, a leader on the team, remembers feeling Jackson’s energy not solely in the beginning, but throughout Jackson’s tenure with the Ducks.
“He would call us multiple times a day,” Thoren said. “And not even just to spew ideas, but just to talk, too. I remember actually about a week or so before his passing, I was studying in the library and I saw his call and I thought, ‘Oh here’s another Charlie call, I don’t really need to handle this.’ So I texted him and asked what’s up, and all he said was, ‘Oh just wanted to say I love you, just wanted to talk for a minute.’ He would just call to call.”
Jackson knew he was more than a coach. And his players felt that.
“He was caring for sure,” added senior attacker Brandon Blonder. “Every time you would talk to him, the first thing he would ask you is, ‘how is your day?’ or, ‘how are you doing?’ because he actually did care about you as a person. He would always take the extra step to make sure that everyone is okay.”
The coach took interest in the younger players as well. He loved to recruit, but not only in terms of bringing in new talent. He used it as a chance to build further relationships and bonds with young people that he wouldn’t otherwise know. It didn’t take long for underclassmen, like current freshman Luke Pita, to realize and appreciate Jackson’s role as both a coach and a mentor.
“I had a really rough first term,” Pita said. “I had my heart broken for the first time in my life, which sucked. I got dropped by a fraternity and I lost a lot of my friends because of that. I told him about this and the first thing he said to me was, ‘If you ever need time, I have an open spot in my house if you ever need a break from everything. You can always go there and you can always talk to me about anything.’”
As a young player on a college team, it can be easy to feel lost. With Pita, Jackson made sure that wasn’t going to be the case.
“He made me feel recognized,” Pita said. “He just cared more than anything.”
Jackson embraced the role he had in his players’ lives, seeing them for more than just their talent on the field. He also walked the fine line between coach and friend, finding the perfect balance in between.
“In some ways, he was kind of a hardass with not tolerating lateness and not tolerating excuses, but in some ways, he was kind of tender and he knew that different players responded to different kinds of coaching,” Jackson’s girlfriend, Megan Myrmo, said. “He would just switch depending on which kid he was interacting with.
“He just did this because he loved it so much. It’s like part of his soul.”
Jackson’s strong people skills and caring qualities were consistent in his personal life as well, especially in the presence of Myrmo and her family.
“I have two boys at home: my son, Taylor, who is a high school lacrosse player, and our Spanish exchange student, Diego,” said Myrmo. “He would reach them in ways that only guys can.”
Even now, more than a month after Jackson’s passing, his death has still not set in with those close to him.
“It felt like a million pounds dropped on my shoulders,” Blonder said.
Jackson’s presence will not only be embedded in each player's mind, but forever ingrained in their hearts.
His players remember the feeling, when moments after finding out about Jackson’s death, they wondered if they could even go on without their head coach. That question was quickly answered, when the team elected to go on a road trip to San Diego just three days later. That’s what Coach Jackson would’ve wanted them to do.
“It’s a higher purpose for the team,” Blonder said. “Now we’re not playing to win, we’re playing to carry the legacy that Charlie wanted us to have.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct date of death from Feb. 10 to Feb. 11.