UGA recruiting: Dose of adversity shows why 4-star Kearis Jackson is a priority
Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star like Kearis Jackson might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
What a month it has been so far for Kearis Jackson. The rising senior at Peach County has:
- Finished as the GHSA Class 3A state champion in the shot put of all things
- Finished as the High Point Champion for Class 3A at the state track meet
- Started his senior year on the football field with spring drills
- Was invited to compete in the Nike “The Opening” finals this summer in Oregon
Jackson — a receiver of all positions — heaved the 12-pound shot some 51-plus feet to win the state crown. The 203-pounder did so in a field dominated by the 275-pound-and-up club.
“This has been the busiest athletic week of my life here lately,” Jackson said. “Then next week I have a 7-on-7 football tournament in Charlotte. It is just a blessing that my body has been able to keep going through all of this.”
Jackson also finished second on 4X100 relay team, third in the 100 meters, fourth in the discus and even ran the anchor leg for the Peach County 4X400 relay team which crossed the finish line first.
But the Trojans did not take first place.
They were disqualified by something Jackson feels he didn’t do. It was ruled he threw the baton after he finished his leg.
“As I was walking off the track they said I was supposed to have the baton in my hand the entire time,” Jackson said. “They said I threw it. But I really just tossed it off to the side as I went down to lay down on the track afterward on the field. I didn’t lay down on the track. I laid down on the field. That’s when a guy told me to make sure I picked the baton up and everything should be okay. There was some lady on the other side of the field that said ‘Uh-uh you don’t need to be doing that’ afterward.”
Jackson was gassed. He was by no means a natural 400-meter runner. He didn’t feel he threw the baton.
The Georgia High School Association and its meet officials said he did. They maintained that stance after the Peach County coaching staff appealed the decision.
The appeal was not won. Peach County was disqualified from that race.
Jackson looked crushed afterward. His body was tired. His legs hurt. The 4-star receiver had a huge ice bag taped to his right thigh.
But his spirit was busted up the most.
“I was tired when I walked off the track,” Jackson said. “I just tossed the baton down to the side and I laid down. But that lady said I had to have the baton in my hand at all times. I was way past the finish line when I did that.”
How Kearis Jackson felt about his mistake
The rulebook was followed. There was the fear that Jackson’s actions could be seen as him celebrating or spiking the baton and not following the rules of proper sportsmanship.
I’m not advocating for an appeal here. Not crying foul or saying this young man and his Peach County team were robbed. The 10 points it cost the Trojans still wouldn’t have topped Cedar Grove for the Class 3A team title.
I was more interested in what Jackson did afterward. How it affected him. It was also important how he responded afterward.
Jackson was solemn. He wasn’t combative or argumentative. He just knew his actions cost his team. And his body ached, too. But that was only temporary.
He felt accountable. He thought he hurt his team at the time. That will not be temporary.
When his name was called to collect the 3A High Point award, he could not move.
“My hamstring was hot,” Jackson said. “It was smoking and it felt hot. I know I got iced up, but I never want to do anything to cost my team. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I’ll remember that feeling and never do anything close to that from now on.”
There’s a lot of recruiting thoughts to follow in the blog regarding Jackson. But they take a backseat to that story.
There is no greater indicator I can share with you about his future college prowess than that.
Georgia fans want their players to feel invested in their team and want to see them motivated more by failure than by success.
Sports are an ultimate character showcase for youth. Elite 4-star receivers and state champion shot putters are no exception to that.
When he finally got up, he said he was ready to play some football later that night in the spring game.
“Maybe coach will let me get a couple of plays,” Jackson said. “I’m tired, but at least I maybe can get in on a few deep routes. Nothing too physical for my body. I want to play, though.”
He did not play later that night against Thomson, but it sounded like he sure wanted to.
The administration at Peach County has told me about Jackson’s character. Incoming Peach County principal Ken Hartley said Jackson is a better person and student than he is an athlete.
That matches up with what I saw on one of his worst days last Saturday in Albany. Find out how an elite athlete acts on his worst day. Watch him when things don’t go his way. That’s when you will know what he is all about.
I found that out about Jackson.
Kearis Jackson plans a very busy summer
Jackson was asked how it feels to be seen as a state champion in the shot put and an elite receiver.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “Receivers aren’t supposed to be big boys but we can do big boy things. We can change the game.”
Georgia fans will note that’s the motto that has become the recruiting trademark for receivers coach James Coley. He said the term “change the game” at two other random moments in our interview.
“Right now I am open to all schools,” Jackson said. “But I have a few that I want to really visit besides Georgia. I still want to go visit my other schools. I am just staying open to all of them.”
Jackson said that Georgia and Coley have been the only school that has told him that they will wait on him to make his final decision before they move on from him as an option at receiver.
“That’s the only school that I know of that has done that,” Jackson said.
He said he’s in a research phase right now. When he goes to visit those schools he looks for the following: 1) Quarterbacks; 2) Depth charts; 3) The style of offense; 4) The overall level of playmakers around them; 5 Environment
“Georgia is an awesome school,” Jackson said. “I like Georgia a lot. But I still want to tour other schools because I’ve been to Georgia a lot. What if I go to visit somewhere like Ohio State and I like it more than Georgia? Then I will start looking real hard at Ohio State as well.”
Jackson plans to join about half-dozen elite prospects on an aggressive college caravan. That’s not a blind ambition. He whipped out his cell phone and showed off the itinerary.
Here’s the list: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Mississippi State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
That sounds exhaustive, but he lives in a different world. He gets an average of 120 text messages per day from recruits, recruiters and friends. The total goes north of 200 messages per day when direct messages on Twitter are also tallied.
Kearis Jackson on Trey Hill: “We will play together”
The eyes usually roll when the term “package deal” comes up. That’s because there are so many variables for player fits and individual preferences and depth charts, etc.
Jackson simply states without an ounce of hesitation that he will play college football at the same school as Houston County 4-star OG Trey Hill. Hill rates as the nation’s No. 2 guard for 2018, but could play right away as a freshman at center.
“Trey and I are going to the same school,” Jackson said. “For sure. We are going to decide at around the same time and are going to be a double package.”
He said the two of them talk and text about it every day. Hill will be a part of that summer caravan. They will also both be able to enroll early.
Jackson said he wants to see Georgia excel this fall as he contemplates his decision.
“I want to see them go deeper than they did last year, be better, win more games, pass the ball better and be more productive on offense,” he said.
He will watch the won-loss total. If the Bulldogs hold a 5-3 record when he’s ready to decide, will it affect his choice?
“Yes, sir it will,” he said. “But then again if I was to go to Georgia like that then I would have that feeling in my mind I could change the game there. I could help be the difference.”