Healthy Living

Buffalo State Football Player Isn't Letting Lupus Define Who He Is

Despite his intensive treatment, this wide receiver is making impressive plays for Buffalo State's football team.

Buffalo State Football Player Isn't Letting Lupus Define Who He Is

Naseer Jackson plays football for SUNY Buffalo State Football, and he loves it. But, how Nas got to this point is a miracle. He plays for a Division III school which means he trains, plays, and gets tackled – hard. Division III school athletes get no glory, are not on national rosters, and they receive no scholarships. They play because they love their sport.

There is no doubt that Nas loves football. He has suffered through two near-death experiences, was paralyzed for two months, went through six months of chemotherapy, suffers from daily pain and is on the SUNY Buffalo State Football roster this season.

“Every day I’m shocked,” Jackson says. “I did what I always dreamed of. If there’s anything that I want people to remember me by is that I followed my dreams. The fact that I played one game was a blessing to me. How many people get the chance to play this game.”

In April 2017, Jackson was going through his day and innocently taking a shower. Suddenly, his left side locked and his arm was stuck at 120 degrees. He grabbed the shower curtain rod, had a seizure and fell. Nas hit his head and was found by his brother, Charles Lecounte, unconscious.

Nas was rushed to the hospital, but he doesn’t remember much now. The doctors were stumped; they didn’t know what was wrong. They gave him antibiotics but quickly found out that Nas was allergic to the medication.

After many tests, poking, and prodding, doctors discovered that Nas Jackson had lupus.

Lupus Attacks Your Tissues and Organs

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks its tissues and organs. The very system that’s supposed to protect your body is attacking it and making you extremely sick.

“When I first heard it I’m like ‘What is lupus?’” Jackson said. “When you hear lupus, you think maybe it’s some kind of cold.” Unfortunately, however, lupus is not a cold, it’s a serious illness that is sometimes treated with chemotherapy.

Nas Jackson went through six months of intensive chemotherapy and could not walk for almost two months. Doctor’s also found blood clots in his liver, spleen, kidney, and brain.

Jackson and The Book of Job

Jackson likens himself to Job in the Old Testament. In the story, God allows Satan to do his worse with Job. The test was to show Satan that no matter what Job went through he would still praise the Lord and be positive. Satan began by killing all Job’s children and servants and then takes his wealth.

Job praised the Lord saying, “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”Satan threw everything he could at Job, like painful boils and sores, more illnesses and brought him close to death. Still, Job praised the Lord, and in the end, God restored everything to Job – wealth, health and family.

Nas said he could identify with Job. He had painful sores, no health, and pain in every joint of his body. Just a month after falling in the shower, Jackson came close to death for the second time.

In the hospital, he could get no rest and no relief from the pain. He came home from the hospital and couldn’t sleep. There was no way he could find a way to relax and rest. The agony he felt was tremendous, and he almost believed he would not make it through the night.

Jackson realized that he would need to commit himself to God and do what he could to get better.

Nas Jackson and Football

Ever since Nas Jackson was four or five, he played football. It was his dream to play football at a higher level, and Jackson was a natural.

He was looked at by a couple of private high schools because of his football skills and because of his grades. Buffalo State Wide Receivers' Coach Alejandro Overton saw Jackson when he was playing for the Wolverines and tried to get Jackson to go to Canisius High School. Overtone realized that even in his depleted state, Jackson was remarkable.

However, Jackson attended St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Kenmore where he rushed for 622 yards and made five touchdowns.

To stay in shape, Jackson would sneak out of his room when he was supposed to be resting and find six-packs of water, which he would use like dumbbells. “My left side was weak, so I would curl,” Jackson says. “That way I get back to where I needed to be, so I wouldn’t have to waste so much time. Losing scholarships depressed me, so I had to work ten times harder to get to where I wanted to be.”

Overtone was impressed. Jackson went from being terribly sick to coming to practice. He couldn’t do much, but he would go to practice and watch. Jackson knew he had to work through adversity to make it back to football.

Jackson’s Support

Nas Jackson’s school, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, was a unique school with a small enrollment of about 700. When Nas played football for St Joe’s, he became a part of a “brotherhood” that supported each other. After he graduated from St. Joe’s, Jackson realized how important belonging to that “Brotherhood” was.

The CEO and president of Kaleida Health and the Great Lake’s Health System of WNY is Jody L. Lomeo. He is also part of the “Brotherhood” of St. Joes, even though he graduated in 1986. It was Lomeo who made sure that Jackson was okay. When Jackson needed help to get back to the hospital or to talk, Lomeo makes it happen.

Lomeo’s family supported Jackson while he was in the hospital and the entire “Brotherhood” of St. Joe’s was there with support. They cheered Jackson on during his trials, and it was their love and support that guides Nas Jackson today.

Nas’s Redemption

After almost eighteen months, six doctors, and months of hard work, the call came that made all the hard work and suffering worth it. “It sent chills through my body,” Jackson says. “There were days in the hospital when I used to be like ‘Man, I don’t want to do this or that’ but not being able to (play football) makes me appreciate it.”

Jackson thanks the Buffalo State head football coach, Jerry  Boyes, and his staff, for letting him play football, even though he still has lupus. The team and coaches praise Nas Jackson for his skills and his energy. SUNY Buffalo State Football is proud to have someone like Nas Jackson on their team. They know he gives his all to the sport he loves.

Jackson is cleared to play football, but he still has lupus. He feels pain every day and has to learn to work through it. He also works though lupus fog, which makes remembering simple things like elementary math difficult.

The weather is also not Jackson’s friend. The heat causes rashes, and he needs to wear sunscreen. The cold causes him to lose circulation in his hands as well. He suffers from a complication of lupus called Raynaud’s Disease where blood vessels contract in his hands and fingers. Jackson needs his hands – he is a wide receiver.

“My fingers turn red, then white and then blue,” Jackson said. “My fingers are really killing me, but I still have to play because there’s nothing I can do about it.”

In the Bengal’s second game on September 8, Nas Jackson caught a pass from Quarterback Kevin Torrillo. He made a touchdown. It was something that many doubted would ever happen again for a talented young man. Many on the team and in the audience shed tears of joy for Nas.

Today Nas Jackson is attending the Buffalo Normal School created to train teachers. His original goal of studying physical theory has changed, and now Nas wants to be a teacher and be a role model to kids. Nas is an African American male who was raised by a single mom, and he believes he can teach in inner-city schools and make a difference.

Does Nas Jackson live in fear of having another terrible lupus flare-up that will leave him unable to walk? "No," he says, "I can’t be scared of it happening again, or I won’t be able to live how I want to live."