Lamar Jackson has no real limitations on the football field.
The senior cornerback from Franklin High School has been offered 20 scholarships, displaying college stationery in his Elk Grove bedroom from Arizona, Cal, Oregon and UCLA to Nebraska, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma.
Here’s what generates the interest: versatility. Jackson can run, pass, block, catch, cover and tackle. He plays offense, defense and special teams. He looks like an athlete at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and sounds like a team leader. But none of this is what Jackson was glowing about Monday night when breaking down his skill set.
“I can sing, too,” Jackson said, sheepishly, quickly adding, “a little.”
He was good enough to lead a victorious tune last week in Franklin’s makeshift “American Idol” talent show. Wildcats football coach Mike Johnson, on the eve of the season opener, ordered a sing-off among the players. He had groups of five players band together to offer their best vocal. The winners were awarded the duty of singing the fight song to the Franklin student body and band after games. And nothing inspires Jackson more than a spirited competition.
Jackson can run, pass, block, catch, cover and tackle. He plays offense, defense and special teams. He looks like an athlete at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and sounds like a team leader.
There was Jackson, leading the fight-song charge after helping Franklin defeat Clovis North of Fresno 30-24 last Friday. This came after he tossed a 29-yard option-pass touchdown to Tariq Glenn and played such tight coverage at cornerback that not one pass was thrown his way.
“I told our guys we’d win that singing contest, and we were all on cue, and we danced, and we put it together in five minutes,” Jackson said excitedly. “It was so much fun. It’s my role as a leader. I’m the spirit of the team, and that’s my job.”
Said Johnson: “Lamar was so excited, you’d think he won a million dollars. He jumped up and down like a 12-year-old kid.”
Inside a man’s body, there’s a lot of kid in Jackson. He smiles a lot, and he’s as silly away from the game as he is fierce in play.
“I’m living a dream, and I’ve come a long way,” Jackson said.
Jackson started his Franklin experience on the outside looking in. Poor grades sidelined him and forced Johnson to pull Jackson into his office for a talk.
“He was a really big kid, tons of energy coming into Franklin but not a lot of interest in education,” Johnson said. “I called his mother (Catherine Horton) and told her, ‘You have an impressive young man, but he’s not doing as well as he can in school.’ She agreed. I told her that Lamar has the body and ability to have his college paid for with a scholarship but only if he can figure out the academic side. Next day, I ran into Lamar and told him, ‘I have a new best friend. Guess who? Yeah, your mom!’
“I’m very proud of him.”
Jackson became a better student. He re-took freshman courses over recent summers and earned A’s. A 3.3 GPA over his last five terms landed Jackson on the national radar as Franklin’s most heavily recruited athlete in the school’s 15 year history.
I’m so glad people pushed me, talked to me, my coaches, administrators, counselors, family. They were all on my side, but it was up to me.
Just as important, he’s now a role model for his three younger siblings being raised by their single mom.
“I’m so glad people pushed me, talked to me, my coaches, administrators, counselors, family,” Jackson said. “They were all on my side, but it was up to me.”
Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson, whose Bulldogs beat Franklin the past two playoff seasons, vouches for Jackson’s ability.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “He’s a talent. He’s big and smooth. A lot of recruiters came through our offices in the spring and his name came up a lot, and people talk of his talent and high character.”
I won’t sit here and brag about scholarship offers or anything. I’ve heard the numbers, that 1 percent of high school kids in the country get scholarships, so I appreciate that.
Jackson remains the same jovial sort. A summer whirlwind tour of camps and clinics didn’t make his head swell – just his pride.
“He’s still the same guy, very humble, just Lamar,” Franklin teammate Rahsaan York said.
Said Jackson: “I can’t change. It’s my personality to be like this, to be outgoing. I respect people. I won’t sit here and brag about scholarship offers or anything. I’ve heard the numbers, that 1 percent of high school kids in the country get scholarships, so I appreciate that. It’s surreal, though, and I never expected this, how it’s changed my future.”
They’re moving on
The Bee’s Joe Davidson breaks down 10 area senior football players who are being heavily recruited:
Rising prospect is best QB in region, according to his coaches.
Committed to Notre Dame; has skills, leadership and grades.
Committed to Oregon, a year after brother Johnny signed with Utah.
Stanford-bound brusier runs with power, speed and purpose and is known for class and humility
Headed to Boise State; impressed coaches with his strength, mobility.
Built like linebacker, elusive like tailback; has 20 offers at DB.
Can cover and hit, and make plays on offense, too; rising prospect.
Latest big – really big – lineman recruit from Grant.
One of state’s fastest players; good hands and makes plays on defense.
Headed to Alabama as the top tackle prospect on the West Coast.
This week’s football schedule
All games kick off between 7 and 7:30 p.m. unless noted
No. 2 Grant at Central-Fresno
No. 3 Del Oro vs. Punahou-Honolulu at Cal
No. 6 Oak Ridge at Vacaville
No. 7 Franklin at Bellarmine
at San Jose City College
El Cerrito at No. 8 Inderkum
Sheldon at No. 9 Antelope
Yuba City at No. 11 Jesuit, 5 p.m.
Pioneer at No. 12 Placer
No. 18 Del Campo at No. 5 Rocklin
No. 10 Granite Bay
at No. 16 Cosumnes Oaks
No. 15 Bear River at Union Mine
No. 17 Christian Brothers
vs. Laguna Creek at Hughes Stadium
Rio Linda at No. 19 Roseville
No. 20 Capital Christian
at Modesto Christian
Bella Vista at Cordova
Bradshaw Christian at De Anza-El Sobrante
Casa Roble at Woodcreek
Davis at River Valley
Dixon at Wheatland
El Dorado at Lincoln
Enterprise-Redding at Whitney
Fairfield at Woodland
Florin at Delhi
Lindhurst vs. Encina at El Camino
Marysville at Live Oak
Merced at Monterey Trail
Natomas vs. Valley
at Cosumnes River College
Pleasant Grove vs. Nevada Union at Sheldon
Oakland at Kennedy
Oakmont at Foothill
Ponderosa at Vista del Lago
Rio Americano vs. Rosemont at Del Campo
San Juan at Foresthill
Winters at Colfax
Western Sierra at Woodland Christian
No. 1 Folsom at Clovis North
El Camino at No. 14 Sacramento, 1 p.m.
Balboa-San Francisco at Center, 11 a.m.
Mira Loma vs. Highlands
at El Camino, 1 p.m.
West Campus at Johnson, 1 p.m.
McClatchy vs. River City at Hughes Stadium
Valley Christian Academy
at Livermore Prep