High School Football

‘There’s something about being a Wildcat.’ Track-and-field star stays in Lexington.

Henry Clay’s Langston Jackson, center, has won track and field state championships in eight events and still has his senior season to go.
Henry Clay’s Langston Jackson, center, has won track and field state championships in eight events and still has his senior season to go. aslitz@herald-leader.com

The fastest high school kid in Lexington has a lot of miles left in his legs. He’s known for a while that he wanted to stay in the city where he honed his speed.

Langston Jackson — an eight-time track and field state champion at Henry Clay — officially signed with the University of Kentucky on Thursday after committing to UK on Nov. 4. He knew well before the fall that he wanted to continue his career with the Wildcats.

“It’s always been my dream to run track for Kentucky, especially being from Kentucky,” Jackson said. “It means a lot more to me.”

UK in the 2018-19 school year lists 15 Kentuckians on its track-and-field roster but only two from Lexington — senior Kendall Muhammad (Paul Laurence Dunbar) and junior Ben Young (Tates Creek), both distance runners. Jackson, a sprinter, chose a full-ride offer from UK over from Texas, Penn State, Houston and Michigan.

Texas is coached by former UK head coach Edrick Floreal, who continued recruiting Jackson after he left Lexington last summer. It was tough to pass on the Longhorns, Jackson said.

“Texas, they’re definitely one of the best universities in the nation and they’re huge,” Jackson said. “I went on my visit down there and it’s a huge campus. I loved it, but UK, there’s something about being a Wildcat. That’s always meant a lot to me.”

Jackson is the defending boys’ Class 3A state champion in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash, and was also part of Henry Clay’s champion 4-by-100 meter relay unit last year. He owns the school record in the 100 (10.49 seconds) and was part of the record-setting 4-by-100 team (41.64 seconds), and is tied with Jaron Brooks — now a star jumper for Auburn University — for the most state titles by a male athlete in school history.

Langston Jackson was an All-City player at Henry Clay but said he won’t attempt to play football in college. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

He might have already passed Brooks on that list had he not torn his MCL on the football field in 2016. Jackson used pilates as part of his physical therapy to improve his flexibility and recover his speed, and continues to use it in his training. Now he’s focused on helping Henry Clay win its first team track state championship since 2016 and setting state-meet records in the 100 and 200; the former was set by William Allen, a Paul Laurence Dunbar sprinter who now runs at Alabama, in 2016, and the latter is held by former Trinity and Louisville star James Quick, who set it in 2012.

Langston’s brother, Jack, walked on for UK’s football team after graduating from Henry Clay in 2016. He’s no longer with the program but five of Jackson’s former teammates — including defensive standout Davonte Robinson — are on the Wildcats’ roster.

Don’t expect Jackson — who had 1,216 all-purpose yards and scored 13 touchdowns as a senior at Henry Clay — to join them. He said that UK Coach Mark Stoops hasn’t reached out about a walk-on opportunity, but that he doesn’t plan on playing football in college.

“It’s definitely tough (to give it up),” Jackson said. “I played football before I ever started running track. It’s hard, but I think it’s best for my body and best for my future to just give it up and focus on track right now.”

Henry Clay’s Langston Jackson chose a scholarship offer from UK over offers from Texas, Penn State, Houston and Michigan. Matt Goins