University of Kentucky football fans who have already gotten to know Drake Jackson as the gregarious spokesman for the Wildcats' 2016 recruiting class caught a different side of the highly touted offensive lineman last week.
Earning an invitation to The Opening — the most prestigious football recruiting camp of the summer — was a big deal for Jackson, who was UK's lone commitment and the state of Kentucky's only representative at the event in Oregon.
In the days leading up to the camp, the Woodford County standout realized he wasn't getting the publicity that his peers were seeing. There were doubts about Jackson's size — at 6-foot-1, he was one of the shortest offensive linemen there — and how well he'd fare against the bigger and supposedly stronger and faster linemen he'd be competing against.
There were also questions about how good he really was, and whether a player committed to UK could hold his own against those pledged to Alabama and other traditional powerhouses.
"So when I got up there, I was really pissed off," Jackson told the Herald-Leader. "I had a chip on my shoulder. I knew that I had to go out there and kick some butt in order to turn some heads."
The videos that came out of the camp showed he kicked plenty of butt.
And the reaction from the recruiting analysts who covered The Opening proved that he turned plenty of heads.
By the end of the week, Jackson had lots of film for his highlight reel. He was also named one of the top five offensive linemen at the camp.
"I thought he did really well," Scout.com analyst Allen Trieu told the Herald-Leader. "Especially on Day 2 and 3, when they had the pads on — he was one of the best offensive linemen there. And for a guy who — when they're walking out on the field — he's not the offensive lineman you'd pick out from that group of 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 monsters. And by the end of the week, he'd earned everybody's respect."
Jackson, who is projected to play center for the Wildcats, didn't come out on the short end of many reps against the best competition in the country.
They did all they could to get under his skin.
A few of his one-on-one drills ended with extra shoving. Video of one encounter in particular made the rounds on Twitter, and it surely endeared Jackson even more to UK fans who watched.
"There was one rep where he got his helmet ripped off and he kept blocking the kid," Trieu said. "He showed that he's not going to back down from anybody, and that included once the whistle was blown. A lot of that extracurricular stuff wasn't necessarily started by him.
"Those guys, I think, took issue with the way he was blocking them, and they kind of initiated that extra after-the-play stuff. But Drake definitely didn't back down from it."
Jackson — an affable kid off the field — acknowledged that he's like a "totally different person" once he puts on the pads. That doesn't mean he gets away from his highly technical blocking ability and awareness, but it doesn't mean he won't give in to a little mean streak either.
"Getting in fights was not my game plan," he said. "I think that was kind of a result of me dominating, to be honest with you. Guys that are 6-foot-7, 300 pounds and committed to Alabama aren't used to getting beaten by little, shorter guys. ... They gave me a couple of extra shoves, and I said screw that. And I went back at 'em."
"Guys were like, 'Man, who's this guy?' And I was like, 'Well, you better know who I am.' And I showed them who I was."
Trieu chuckled at the thought of some of those battles.
In one, Jackson successfully kept Alabama D-line commitment Raekwon Davis from getting past him. After the whistle, Davis — all 6 feet 7 and 320 pounds of him — started yelling at Jackson, then gave the future Wildcat a shove to the face.
Jackson responded with a couple of swings and the two were separated.
"Oh, I love it, especially in an offensive lineman," Trieu said. "I think that's exactly the type of attitude that you want. If you're the quarterback, who would you rather have blocking for you? I want the guy that's going to be battling for me, even after the play's been blown dead. And you also like to see that when you go up against the best of the best.
"I think all of that adds in to the entire portrait of what makes him such a great prospect."
Scout.com ranks Jackson as the No. 97 overall player in the class of 2016.
He committed to Kentucky in December and has been a dogged recruiter for the Wildcats ever since, pledging to help the UK coaching staff bring in as much talent as possible.
Jackson, who chose the Cats over scholarship offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee, scoffs at the notion of his future team as a second-rate college football program.
He said he hopes last week's performance is just one more positive step toward eliminating that perception.
"It just kind of solidifies that UK can recruit," Jackson said. "They really can beat other schools for high-caliber players."