Kash Daniel, Drake Jackson and Landon Young have one more high school football game to play before suiting up for the University of Kentucky this fall.
The trio will represent the state in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as part of the West team in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday. They’ll take to the same turf as have Andrew Luck, Odell Beckham Jr. and Adrian Peterson at 1 p.m. on NBC. It’s the first time UK has three of its future players participating in the game.
Young, an offensive lineman on Lafayette’s state finalist team, said getting to share the experience with his buddies Daniel, the 2015 Mr. Football out of Paintsville, and Jackson, of Woodford County, makes it all the more special.
“Actually being able to live out a dream, it’s amazing,” Young said. “ ... You’re not gonna find anywhere, ever, with this kind of talent in one game. This is more than just a couple of good high school players getting together.”
The three have been the darlings of scouts in San Antonio and have outperformed higher-rated counterparts all week. All three will start Saturday.
Barton Simmons of 247Sports suggested Young should be in the hunt for a five-star rating while Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt said “There may not be a better-looking prospect on either team” than the Lafayette star.
Simmons called Jackson the “the most valuable lineman” for the West team and that it was clear early in the week that Daniel, who will play linebacker at the next level, was “comfortable” communicating and being a leader. Those two on Wednesday were among the four players chosen as game captains for the West.
“It’s nice to see the coaches recognize some leadership and that I’ve been able to help keep the offensive line organized, which is one of the hardest things to do at an All-Star level like this when everybody’s thrown together,” Jackson said.
As eighth-graders, Jackson and Daniel were part of a Kentucky All-Star team that reached the national semifinals of a U.S. Army tournament. That experience helped spur their current accolades.
“Just being around these middle school kids, the way they look up to us right now, I was in their shoes at one time,” Daniel said. “That dream starts down here in San Antonio. Hopefully all those kids will end up here playing in the U.S. Army All-American bowl like we are.”
0 The number of scholarship offers Kash Daniel had at the end of his junior season. Read Ben Roberts’ story on his meteoric rise up the charts.
Phil Hawkins, now the head coach at Doss, was the head coach of that middle school team and is serving as the West’s offensive line coach Saturday. He said Jackson knew all the offensive signals before the quarterbacks did. When the offensive coaches met to select captains, Jackson was a “no-brainer.” The defensive coaches named Daniel unanimously.
“It was happening, and I’m sitting there in the room thinking ‘Do they realize that there’s two Kentucky kids out of the four captains?” Hawkins said. “ ... Obviously I’d like for all three of our kids to be captains, but the fact that two of those four are from Kentucky, that’s huge.”
The competition level down there is “unreal compared to what I’m used to” in Eastern Kentucky, Daniel said. Going up against bigger guys in practice has helped prepare him and his future UK teammates for life in the Southeastern Conference.
“Back home, you play hard every play but there’s some plays you can be like, ‘OK, the ball’s going away from me and there’s this little kid coming to block me so I can avoid him.’ I learned the first day, you’ve got to play balls out 24/7, every single snap.”
Jackson said they’ve approached this as a chance to represent UK’s class of 2016 as a whole. “We’re doing more than holding our own and I think it looks good on the state of Kentucky as well as the university.” He and Daniel will fly back Sunday and move onto campus Monday. Young still has a semester left at Lafayette, where he is also a standout wrestler and track-and-field athlete.
3 The number of Division I linemen Woodford County produced in the 2016 class. Read about Drake Jackson’s role in making it happen.
The West owns a two-game win streak in the U.S. Army Bowl. Is it going to three?
“Oh heck yes,” Young said. “West side all the way.”
U.S. Army All-American Bowl
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas