Robin Jackson, a single mom living in Van Nuys, Calif., enjoys a steady diet of college football. And with her twin sons Marquis playing at Texas Southern, and Malik at Tennessee, Robin’s determination to travel to their games as often as she can impacts her diet as well.

“I eat a lot of mustard sandwiches,” Robin said.

She does it gladly as a rabid college football enthusiast and her boys’ No.1 fan. 

“I think it’s important for me to support them,” Robin said. “They’ve been doing this since they were seven. It keeps me going to see them actually make it to where they wanted to go and try to go to the next level.”

Handling the logistics of attending her sons’ games is not an easy task. Marquis’ home games in Houston are more than 1,500 miles from home, while Malik’s games in Knoxville are 2,195 miles away.

Rare are the weekends when she has the company of one of her boys at a game, but it did happen earlier in the season. Texas Southern kicked off its season a week after Tennessee, so Marquis, a preseason All-SWAC defensive lineman, accompanied his mom to Knoxville to watch the Volunteers take on Montana. Last weekend during Tennessee’s bye week, Malik returned the favor and was there in Houston -- via a layover in Charlotte -- with his mom for the Tigers’ game against Alcorn.

“By them being so far apart, I want to do things like this,” Robin said. “Family is very important to me.”

It isn’t feasible logistically or financially for Robin to make all their games, so she cobbles together an information network on game days. She often turns to the Internet for streamed broadcasts of Texas Southern games and is often able to find Tennesse on television.

“One time last year, they were on at the same time,” Robin said. “I had the computer on (for Marquis’ game) and the TV turned down (for Malik’s game). That was a rough one for me. But it’s worth it.”

Marquis played at Southern Cal for two seasons, but then Trojans coach Pete Carroll took off for the NFL. USC brought on Lane Kiffin and things changed in big way -- and not for the positive.

I’m just really excited about this year and seeing them [her sons] play.
-- 'Football Mom' Robin Jackson

“We loved coach Carroll,” Robin said. “He was honest with you. He was just so nice and approachable. Kiffin didn’t have that. His group [of coaches] didn’t have that.”

Nor did they have much to do with upperclassmen either, which was bad news for guys like Malik. When word was out he was looking to leave, Tennessee contacted him. It’s worked out well for the 6-foot-5, 270-pound senior lineman. He starts for the Vols and his 11 tackles are tied for fifth-best on the team. He was also on the preseason watch lists for the Lombardi, Outland and Nagurski awards.

Marquis started out his collegiate career at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif., before transferring to Texas Southern. He’s a senior in the classroom, but has junior eligibility on the field. It was a great place for him as well even though he had little knowledge of the place where he would later earn All-SWAC honors.

“The only thing I knew about black college football was Grambling and Southern and the Bayou Classic,” Marquis said. “That’s all I knew. The black college thing was new to me. But the coaches contacted me and the next thing I knew, I was in Houston. I am blessed.”

They can say much the same thing about life with their mom. They are well aware of the effort she makes to see them play.

“She works really hard to see both of our games,” Malik said. “She’s really happy when she comes out, and so are we. We see how hard she’s working and we get really excited to see her.

“We promised our mother when we were six we were going to take care of her. I’m still holding up to that promise. That’s probably one of the reasons that drives me. We know where we’ve been and what we’re going through. Then she can do what she wants to do.”

Robin is certainly holding them to that promise. When the time comes, she will be ready.

“I tell them I’ve got my retirement papers in my desk,” Robin said, laughing. “I don’t care if I am not old enough, it doesn’t matter. I’m done. I told them, as soon as you guys go somewhere, or get picked up somewhere, I’m picking up this stack of papers with all of these dollar amounts (of money spent traveling to their games). 

“But really, I tell them all the time, as long as you are doing what makes you happy, I don’t care. I told them I don’t want them to have to punch a clock like I do.  Although I love what I do, I want them to, if they could, work for themselves. I want them thinking about that and just playing football. I’m just really excited about this year and seeing them play. I’m hoping they do well.”