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Jackson more than meets the eye

By Ronny Carlton

Special to The Farmville Herald

Cumberland High School’s T.J. Jackson was a leader on the football field this year, and gave his opponents a tough time each game as he averaged 13 tackles per night.

Although it is obvious that he was a standout defensive player for the Dukes and has a few offers to play football in college, there is more to the player than one may think.

The main office of CHS bustles on a regular school day. Streams of students are in and out of the office for various reasons. Some going home, others switching classes and changing over to clubs they were part of.

Amidst the controlled chaos, Jackson can be found ducking under doors to enter rooms. Standing 6-foot-9 and weighing 330 pounds he’s hard to miss.

As physically imposing as he is, Jackson’s demeanor is unassuming.  He’s not quiet, he said, just reserved until he gets to know a person. It could be hard to believe that this was the same kid who spent his Friday nights throwing defenders around like rag dolls. With a bit of prodding, Jackson reeled off height-related comments he’s most frequently heard.

“How’s the weather up there?”

“Do you play basketball?

“How tall are you?

As he recited his list a coy grin spread across his face. For some height and size are a burden; not the case for Jackson. “Ever since I was little, I was always the biggest in my class. Growing up people expected more,” he said. “I didn’t really play sports (at first). I started playing basketball in eighth grade. People always expect me to excel in whatever I do, but I’m still learning. It’s pretty cool, though. I like being my size.”

Despite receiving offers from several Division I schools, including the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State — offers that he has not decided on — Jackson is grounded and has interests outside of football.

“You give me a song and I’ll play it. That how it’s been since I was little,” he said as he smiled again, this one bigger than the first. “I love music.”

With a bright future and a reservoir of untapped potential, Jackson has a huge decision to make. When asked what factors would go into choosing a college, he said, “The campus. I want to be comfortable where I go. I want to go somewhere that has more to offer than their athletic program.”

Knapp summarized the type of young man Jackson was, saying, “He’s the kind of kid you want your daughter to date. He’s a wonderful young man. He’s very smart and personable and he has an amazing upside. He’s still learning and if he gets under the right person he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”