Throughout the Western Illinois football locker room, Jaelon Acklin has left a trail of broken dreams when it comes to Xbox challengers. He also has broken the spirits of a number of opposing defensive backs this fall, and currently is 25 yards away from the school record for receiving yards in a season.
Along with making headlines for a wildly successful season on the field, the senior wide receiver from southern Missouri is known for his video game prowess, a love for soccer and a weakness for his mom’s home cooking.
In this edition of Moving the Chains, Acklin discusses which Dairy Queen treat is most tantalizing, the soccer player who could bring him to tears, the best part of a Thanksgiving feast and the teammate he’d like to switch places with for a day.
What’s the most memorable catch in your career?
That would be at South Dakota last year. I didn’t play much throughout the season, and one of our wide receivers got hurt. They put me in on a last-minute drive. It was fourth-and-10 and (quarterback Sean McGuire) threw me a seam ball and we kept the drive going and eventually scored. That kick-started my career to now.
You’re an accomplished Xbox player when it comes to the FIFA game. What’s your go-to team to play with?
Real Madrid, and my go-to player is Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s my favorite athlete of all time. I try to mimic my life as much as I can around him. I like how he’s very confident in himself. He doesn’t listen to what other people say. Wherever he goes, he wins.
What’s on your soccer fan bucket list?
I would say it would be the World Cup next year (but the United States failed to qualify). I’ve been waiting for that for four years and I got my heart ripped out by the U.S. men’s soccer team. I’d like to go to a Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona game sometime before I die. I’d like to see Christian Pulisic play for the U.S. men’s national team. I’d like to meet him too. I’d probably cry if I got to meet him. I love how he’s so young and so composed. I think he handles pressure really well.
Who’s your biggest FIFA challenger on Xbox?
Sam Crosa, our kicker. He’s new to the team and he talked to me about how good he is at FIFA. I just blew him off at first. He beat me a couple of times. We team up most of the time now and play online. Our record is 62-5. We’re a pretty good combo. He probably has the edge on me right now, but I’ve been training. I’m going to come back stronger after the season. I’ve been really busy with football, and he’s just a kicker so he can play Xbox more than I do right now.
Who’s the biggest talker when it comes to Xbox?
It’s Cal Breedlove, my roommate, for sure. He doesn’t even play Xbox, but he always comes up to me and asks when we’re going to play FIFA. The one time we did play, I beat him 12-0 and he still talks smack because he almost scored on me. He always says, ‘I almost scored on you. You’re not that good.’
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Whenever people make smacking sounds when they’re eating. I always used to get on my dad for that. He’d always do that at family dinners. I’d have to get up and leave because I couldn’t stand it. Now he does it to me just to be a jerk and get on my nerves.
You gave up fast food a year ago, but is there something you still crave?
The double chocolate extreme blizzard from Dairy Queen. I used to eat that around 9 or 10 o’clock at night. Sometimes, I’ll get to playing Xbox and I think, ‘Man, that sounds really good right now.’ I have to go drink water or something to make me forget about that ice cream.
What’s the best dish your mom cooks at home?
She’s very good at making chili and tacos. Every time I go home, that’s what I ask for. She can cook anything, though. The worst thing is that she’s the best baker I’ve ever met in my life. When I go home, she’ll say, ‘I made brownies.' I tell her, ‘Mom, I can’t eat those.’ She’ll make muffins and cupcakes, but I try to tell her not to make those when I’m at home.
What’s your favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal?
The turkey leg. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted the two turkey legs. I just think they’re easy to eat.
What’s the best Christmas present you ever received?
Far Cry 4, an Xbox game my mom got me. I probably played that for a month straight. My dad also got us go-karts. Those only worked for about two weeks. I was kind of bummed out because the motor blew up. My brother and I ran those so hard. We ran them into trees and stuff.
What’s the best advice your parents ever gave you?
To keep going and not complain, because you’re blessed to be in the situation you’re in. My mom battled breast cancer when I was in high school. For me to Facetime her and complain about stuff, it makes me feel bad. She’s gone through way more than I have.
What would the single-season receiving yardage school record mean to you?
It would mean a lot. I try not to focus on individual statistics, but it’s hard not to. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m trying to be the best receiver ever to play at Western. My dad told me if you’re not trying to be the best, then what are you doing? It’d be nice to have that record.
What’s the best stadium you’ve ever played in?
I like the Fargodome (at North Dakota State). The loudest stadium I’ve ever been in has been the UNI Dome (at Northern Iowa) on our game-winning drive this season. That was a fun game. There was nothing better than hearing that crowd go silent. I have a bunch of family in Des Moines, Iowa. A lot of them go to UNI. They always tell me about how UNI is going to beat us. I try to make it every year so they can’t heckle me at family dinners.
Have you ever played a musical instrument?
In music class in elementary school, I would mess around the whole time. My music teacher did not like me. One time, he asked if anyone knew how to play piano and I raised my hand. I went up there and was just being dumb, messing around. He told me to go sit in the corner. Since then, I have not tried to play a musical instrument.
What’s your dream job after football is over?
To be a high school football coach. That’s what my dad does. I’d like to win a state championship with my old high school (Liberty H.S. in Mountain View, Mo.) at some point. That would be my dream. I’d also like to go into law enforcement and try to get into the FBI down the road to be a criminal investigator.
What’s your favorite spot on campus?
The sauna at the Spencer Student Recreation Center. I love the sauna! I usually go there for about 20 minutes a day. I can sit there, relax, go on my phone, listen to music. I find it relaxing to be in the sauna.
Who’s your favorite opponent to play against?
Missouri State. That’s the school I always wanted to go to. As a kid, we’d go to their games. Their old coaching staff told me I wasn’t athletic enough. It’s a little more personal against them.
If you could switch places for a day with any teammate, who would it be?
Isaiah LeSure, our other starting wide receiver. He’s the total opposite of me. He’s super loud and always happy go lucky. I just want to see what it’s like to be that energized all the time. I feel like an old man whenever I’m around him. I just want a nap and he wants to get up and go places. He’s really outgoing.