'Violent hands' aid Woodford lineman Jackson's rapid climb up recruiting rankings

mfields@herald-leader.comJuly 30, 2014 

Drake Jackson of Woodford County

— This time last year Drake Jackson was a low-profile sophomore offensive lineman gearing up for his first season at Woodford County after transferring from Lexington Catholic.

When Jackson reported for preseason practice at Woodford County this year, he had a much higher profile, thanks to scholarship offers from Kentucky, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Toledo and UAB, with more surely to come.

Having gone from relative anonymity to big-time prospect, Jackson laughs about the nickname given to him by his Woodford County teammates.

"They call me D-1," he said. "I don't get too big-headed over it. They joke about it and think it's funny. It's all fun."

Jackson is a quick-to-smile 16-year-old who seems unaffected by the recruiting rush he's been swept up in the last 12 months.

After playing as a freshman at Lexington Catholic, Jackson attended camps at UK and Louisville in the summer of 2013. He followed up by sending the coaches game film. He must have made an impression because last November he got an offer from UK.

"That put my name on the map a little bit," Jackson said.

In February he attended a camp in Indianapolis, and the next day came an offer from Vandy. His recruiting was fairly quiet after that until he went to camp at Ohio State in early June. Within two weeks he had offers from Toledo and UAB.

Next came a camp at Alabama in mid-June. Jackson got noticed by the Crimson Tide coaches, who invited him back for a visit. By mid-July he had a scholarship offer from Nick Saban.

Jackson isn't overwhelmed by it all. He's interested to see what other schools might pursue him, "but it doesn't really matter as long as you have the offer you want on signing day."

Jackson hopes to make a decision and commit next spring or summer before his senior year.

Jackson said he's "never been a diehard fan" of any college or pro team. "I never had big posters hanging up in my room."

But football is in the family. Brian Jackson, his dad, played fullback at Purdue in the 1980s. Drake's older brother Ridge was a lineman at Lexington Catholic. He's now a sophomore at EKU, but not playing football. Younger brother Dane is a middle-school standout.

Drake, who played left guard most of last season, is slotted at left tackle this year.

At 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, he's projected to play center in college. Woodford County Coach Steve Stonebraker thinks Jackson has the tools to make the position switch.

"He's definitely heady enough and intelligent enough to do that," Stonebraker said. "The thing that's really impressive about him is his technique. He's got violent hands, and he has really good feet for his size."

Jackson said college coaches have told him he has "great balance and technique that's far beyond my age. And they like my quickness. Film shows I'm a good run-blocker, and I play low."

Now that he's a Division I prospect — Jackson is the only Kentuckian among Rivals.com's top 250 for the class of 2016 — will it be difficult for him to stay focused on high school football two more seasons?

"Not at all," he said. "I'm surrounded by the right people, my family, my teammates, the guys I work out with. I like to give myself higher expectations so I can try to reach them.

"I think I'm humble enough not to get complacent. I'll keep working."

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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