Tornado damage prompts action by Central Football Team

Center football players take on some of the heavy work on the farm for freshman defensive lineman Brock Jackson.


Players help clean up a teammate’s family farm after Saturday’s storm

PELLA—Once again, the Central College football team has come out on top.

Fans vividly remember a last-second Dutch touchdown for a 30-28 NCAA Division III playoff victory over Wheaton College (Illinois) on Nov. 27. But for the freshman defensive lineman Brock Jackson (Runnells, South East Polk HS) and his family, the team’s magical moment was Sunday when 30 to 40 players, traveling alone on short notice, arrived at the Jacksons’ farm near Runnells. The family’s home and farm buildings sustained significant damage as the tornado tore through parts of south-central Iowa on Saturday night.

After the stunned family observed the damaged buildings and the branches and belongings that littered the yard and nearby fields Saturday night, Jackson knew where to turn for help. He contacted the coach Jeff McMartin at 9:30 p.m. and the veteran coach sent in a plea. At 9 a.m. the next morning, the stream of players arrived at the farm.

“My grandmother came to our house in a truck,” Jackson said. “When she saw everyone helping and she saw the guys from Central, she started crying.”

Jackson’s parents and siblings took refuge in his grandmother’s nearby house as the tornado approached around 7 p.m. Jackson had gone out to dinner when the storm hit, but he immediately returned home.

“I couldn’t even go home because there was a tree in the road,” he said. “I had to go out and run. I was pretty shocked that night.”

The house has lost part of the roof and several windows. Some storage buildings were destroyed and a corn crib was damaged. Trees still standing were stripped.

“We found stuff from home in a field half a mile away,” the tight end said Grant Nelson (Freshman, Pella).

The Dutch players were among 150 family friends and relatives who helped with the cleanup.

“With all the people we had there, we were able to clean up most of the debris and organize it into piles so we could put it in dumpsters,” Jackson said.

The family also benefited from the extra muscle provided by the Dutch.

“They were driving posts into the ground and tying them to the fence and all that kind of stuff,” Jackson said.

An aunt was also forced out of an adjacent house, leaving the entire family with Jackson’s grandmother while repairs are completed and power is restored. But a structural engineer will need to assess the Jackson family home before repairs can begin.

“Right now it’s really just a waiting game to see what we can do,” he said.

Nelson called it a humbling experience.

“It was hard to see Brock and his family in this vulnerable state,” he said. “But being able to help them made me feel good.”

For Jackson, the notion of the Central football team as a family is more than a t-shirt slogan.

“It’s a brotherhood and I’m just lucky to be a part of it,” he said.

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