High School Football

‘College coaches will find you.’ How a small-town Kentucky kid earned his shot at Harvard.

Kroger Field gets soaked during state football finals

Inclement weather, including heavy rain, prevented the Class 6A state championship football game from starting as scheduled on Saturday, December 1, 2018.
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Inclement weather, including heavy rain, prevented the Class 6A state championship football game from starting as scheduled on Saturday, December 1, 2018.

When colleges began to notice Pikeville wide receiver Jackson Hensley, he had the usual smattering of in-state schools, but there was something else.

Schools like Columbia, Cornell, Penn, Yale and Harvard began popping up on his recruiting chart, and they all were offering the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior with a 4.0 GPA spots on their 2020 rosters.

Wednesday, two weeks after making a campus visit, Hensley committed.

“I figured that if I’m going to go Ivy League, I might as well go big or go home,” Hensley said shortly after announcing his decision to play for Harvard on Twitter.

Although Harvard doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, a chance to get into the prestigious institution was simply too good to pass up, Hensley said. Plus, “them really showing their interest in me and making me feel wanted really had a big part in it.”

Having extended family in the Boston area and direct flights from Cincinnati also helped sway the decision, he said.

Hensley ranks as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.com. He began thinking seriously about playing college football last summer, said Pikeville Coach Chris McNamee, and he helped the Panthers reach the Class A title game last season by catching 39 passes for 829 yards and 16 touchdowns. He averaged better than a touchdown per game.

“It’s hard to pinpoint. When you watch him on film, he doesn’t look as fast as what he is,” McNamee said. “He’s got a long stride. What people don’t see is that he can catch the football and he doesn’t mind going into a crowd. He just makes plays and when he gets the ball, he makes people miss and makes big plays.”

The deceptive speed turned into some cold-hard data when Hensley posted a 4.48 40-yard dash time on April 28 during a Nike all-star event, The Opening Regional.

“That’s what really started my football recruiting stuff,” Hensley said.

With his college decision out of the way, Hensley’s focus becomes helping Pikeville earn its fifth state title, a goal the Panthers came achingly close to before being turned away by Beechwood last season.

He knows it’s possible, because if a kid from Pikeville can go to a place like Harvard and play the game he loves, anything is possible.

“It really shows you that no matter where you’re at that if you work hard and you really put your mind to something, college coaches will find you,” Hensley said. “It was tougher for me coming where I’m from, but in the long run it just kind of shows that if you’re good and you do your thing, you’ll get noticed.”

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