Army coach Jeff Monken and his Black Knights knew the best way to honor Brandon Jackson was to return to the football field and practice with a purpose.
So that's what the team did on Monday, a day after Jackson, a 20-year-old sophomore defensive back from Queens, New York, was killed in a single-car crash.
"Right from the get-go and just being out there was therapeutic for our team," Monken said Tuesday. "I think they were just glad to be out there together, and to be able to feel like they were doing something together to honor Brandon."
The fatal accident occurred at around 1:50 a.m. Sunday about 20 miles south of the West Point campus in Westchester County, according to police and the U.S. Military Academy. The crash, which remains under investigation, happened several hours after Army had defeated Rice in the Black Knights' home opener at Michie Stadium.
"He deeply cared for people and was beloved by teammates," Monken said. "It's just so sad for his family. Our guys are reeling right now."
Monken said he had not received word of funeral plans for Jackson.
Jackson was an impact player for the Black Knights. He had played in every game since arriving on campus in 2015 and finished with 68 career tackles and three interceptions, two of them against Wake Forest last fall.
"He was a great cadet. He was a good student, a good football player and he represented this program in a way that I want all our guys to represent this program," Monken said. "He's a guy that we can be proud of."
Once Monken was informed of Jackson's death, he said the academy made sure Jackson's mother was notified immediately to avoid the chance that social media might become an unwanted factor. The players were then told.
"Word travels fast," Monken said. "It was amazing how quickly — before our guys even left the room — it was public knowledge. I was glad we were able to be here together and be able to comfort each other."
Army is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 1996. That team, coached by Bob Sutton, won its first nine. The Black Knights will try to make it three in a row when they begin the first of three weeks on the road with a game Saturday night at Texas-El Paso (1-1).
"We're already together. I don't think it's going to pull us apart," Monken said. "We'll forge on. We're a tight group. We don't need a cause now to play hard."