Jackson enjoying his return

Kevin Jackson, a Battery standout from 2002-05, just started a second stint playing midfield for Charleston in the USL ranks. He helped the club to the 2003 A-League title.

After five years away from the sport, the passion for soccer still burned inside Kevin Jackson.

It would show itself when he would play in the local men's leagues. When winning should have been of secondary importance and going out with the guys and getting some exercise were supposed to be the primary objectives.

Even when Jackson passed his 30th birthday, he would find himself getting upset at his teammates.

"I would get so frustrated playing in the local men's league. I would make a pass or make a play and then someone would mess it up," Jackson said. "I would be this close to jumping down a guy's throat and then I'd realize that this is just a Sunday league. That these guys were not professionals and I needed to get a little perspective."

That's when Jackson knew it was time to get back on the field and play at a higher level. But Jackson was no rookie. He will be 32 in July and has not played at the professional level in five years.

"I still loved the game -- it wasn't like I put away the ball," Jackson said. "I knew that I still wanted to play and I still had that competitive fire. That's when I thought seriously about coming back and trying to play."

Jackson, who was drafted by Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire in 2000, spent three seasons with the

Charleston Battery from 2002-05. He started 14 games and recorded a goal and an assist during the Battery's run at an A-League championship in 2003.

Two years later, though, Jackson decided to hang up his cleats.

"At that point, I'd play five or six seasons at the pro0fessional level and felt like I had gotten as much out of a pro career as I could," Jackson said. "I felt like I needed to start the next phase of my life and get a real job. If I know now what I knew then and I had it to do all over again, I would have never retired."

Jackson got involved with the Daniel Island Soccer Club as a coach and eventually started his own business -- Jackson Soccer Development -- giving private soccer lessons to kids.

Still there was a part of him that yearned to be back on the field in a Battery uniform.

"I would come to the games and I would sit up in the stands and wonder why I'd ever walked away," Jackson said. "I really love coaching, but there always seemed to be something missing. I missed that camaraderie you only get from being a part of a team. Playing the game, not just to get some exercise, but because you've got something invested in it and the team you're playing for."

It was late last year when Jackson finally decided to give it another go.

In January, he got in touch with Battery assistant coach Ian Fuller. Fuller told head coach Mike Anhaeuser that Jackson was considering a comeback, and the formerLehigh University star wasinvited to take part in the team's player tryout camp in February.

Anhaeuser admitted he was a little skeptical about Jackson's return.

"I just wasn't sure how committed Kevin was to the idea of coming back," Anhaeuser said. "I knew he had the skill and would eventually get his fitness back, but I wasn't sure he would be 100 percent committed. He had started his own business. I didn't think after four years, he'd be ready to jump back into it.

"I told Kevin that it was going to be difficult for him to earn a spot. The guys today are much more fit than they were even four years ago, but I promised him I was going to give him an honest chance."

It didn't take long for Anhaeuser to change his mind.

"You could see that he wanted to play again," Anhaeuser said. "He wasn't as sharp as some of the other guys we had in camp, but that's because he hadn't been played at this level in four or five years. There are some good players in the men's leagues around town, but it's nothing on the pro level."

Jackson has proven to be a versatile performer for the Battery, playing both positions in the center midfield in the first three games.

"I'm getting there," he said. "I'm still probably not match fit, but I'm working on it."

Jackson has seen his minutes increase with each game and could be in the mix for a starting spot in the near future.

"He's played in all three games and has looked good," Anhaeuser said. "You can tell he's still getting his timing down and his fitness back. Once that happens, he'll be probably one of our top 11."

Charlotte Eagles (1-1-0, 3 points) at Charleston Battery (2-0-1, 5 points)

When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Blackbaud Stadium

Tickets: 971-GOAL; www.charlestonbattery.com