Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson grew up in the football-obsessed college town of Ann Arbor, Mich., as the youngest son of a former longtime assistant coach with the Wolverines.
Among the many benefits of having a father in that line of work were not only the one-on-one teaching sessions at an early age but also the opportunity to mingle with some of the most noteworthy players in Michigan’s storied history.
Take last week, for instance, when Jackson was preparing to make his debut as the Hokies’ starter against West Virginia Sunday night in a nationally televised game at FedEx Field. As a primer of what to expect on the big stage, Jackson’s father, Fred, arranged to have his son speak with none other than Tom Brady.
Brady played quarterback at Michigan before becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to win five Super Bowls, all with the Patriots.
‘‘It was kind of simple,’’ Josh Jackson said about his conversation with the only four-time Super Bowl MVP. ‘‘It was just, ‘Good luck this season,’ how to be a leader and have confidence. It wasn’t like some extra secret thing. He just called me, and it was awesome.’’
So, too, was Jackson in the 21st-ranked Hokies’ 31-24 win against the No. 22 Mountaineers in the first game between the teams since 2005.
The redshirt freshman who had not taken a single snap in a major college football game thrilled the Hokies’ faithful in the second half, particularly with a 46-yard run that set up Travon McMillian’s touchdown run from the 3-yard line for the winning points.
On the first-down read-option play, Jackson faked an end-around handoff and kept the ball when he spotted a gaping hole between the center and left guard. He would have scored had it not been for a jarring hit by Mountaineers cornerback Hakeem Bailey just short of the end zone.
Jackson lay on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the blow but slowly rose to get back to the huddle having reached 101 rushing yards, the most for a Hokies quarterback in his debut since 1987. He also finished with 235 passing yards and one touchdown in completing 15 of 26 attempts without an interception.
Jackson became the first Virginia Tech quarterback since Logan Thomas in 2013 to pass for at least 200 yards and rush for 100 in a game.
‘‘I thought he did a really good job,’’ Virginia Tech Coach Justin Fuente said. ‘‘He’s been a guy who has done what we’ve asked him to do on a consistent basis, and he played really well on the big stage, against a tough, hard-nosed football team. I was awfully proud, probably more than proud I was happy for him because he’s worked awfully hard.’’
Fred Jackson, despite a balky back, not only made it to the game from Michigan, where he is the head coach at Ypsilanti Community High School, but also was on the field to celebrate with his son as Virginia Tech players hoisted the Black Diamond Trophy awarded to the winner of the showdown between the contentious border rivals.
The patriarch of the Jackson family served 23 years as an assistant at Michigan, primarily working with running backs, during the coaching administrations of Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. He took the Ypsilanti job in November 2015.
‘‘He somehow got let onto the field,’’ Josh Jackson, chuckling, said of his father. ‘‘I see him walking around, and I’m wondering, ‘Who is that?’ I don’t know how he got on the field. He was very proud of me, and I was glad that I could play like that and he could come see it.’’
Teammates were enthusiastic as well after Jackson directed the Hokies to 469 yards of total offense, including 304 in the second half when the teams combined for 38 points. He had won the starting job early in training camp after a three-way competition with newcomers AJ Bush and Hendon Hooker.
Jackson held the initial advantage over Bush and Hooker having traveled with the team last season while redshirting. The learning process included studying the habits of quarterback Jerod Evans, who set Virginia Tech single-season records for total offense (4,392), passing yards (3,546) and passing touchdowns (29), as well as gaining command of the offensive system.
Jackson admitted to a case of the jitters during pregame activities but settled in upon completing his first pass of the game to Cam Phillips. The senior wide receiver has been serving as a mentor to Jackson and was his favorite target against West Virginia, catching seven passes for a personal-best 138 yards and one touchdown.
‘‘If you talk to him or you’re around him, he acts much more mature than a freshman,’’ Phillips said of Jackson, ‘‘so I wasn’t surprised that he was that composed. He made the right decisions. He didn’t try to do too much, but just enough. I loved the way he played, and I said it earlier, I think he can have a really great year this year.’’