Two Dukes set for college ball
Published 1:23 pm Monday, March 11, 2019
Jackson will play football, Stinson will play baseball
Cumberland County High School seniors Christian Jackson and Tristan Stinson formally announced they would be continuing their athletic careers in college during a ceremony Wednesday that included a supportive crowd of family, friends and coaches.
Jackson will play football as he attends Virginia Union University in Richmond, and Stinson will play baseball as he attends Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Both student-athletes made clear that formally securing their path to college sports was a big moment for them.
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“It’s everything I’ve always wanted to do ever since I was a kid,” Stinson said. “I really couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family throughout the years. It’s an awesome feeling. It’s everything I thought it would be.”
Stinson is about to begin his senior season on the diamond, which will make him a four-year letterman in the sport.
Jackson competed on the varsity football team in the fall for the fourth straight year, but his plans to play in college took a hit when he was sidelined by injury for much of the year. When this did not prove to derail his plans, it deepened his appreciation for the opportunity to play in college.
“It means a lot to me right now,” he said. “I’m very emotional, because I’m glad I get to compete at the next level with coming off an injury and everything.”
He expressed gratitude for the support of coaches at Virginia Union during his senior season.
“They didn’t give up,” he said. “They stayed on me. They wanted me. They made sure I always went to my therapy appointments, they made sure I always had my checkups. They just stayed on me really hard, too, because they knew I could come back from it, and when I came back, it was going to better than it was last. But yeah, they did a lot. It was a big impact on my senior year.”
That impact was something Jackson remembered when making his decision of what college to attend. He also had interest from other schools, including but not limited to Old Dominion University, Virginia State University and Hampden-Sydney College.
Jackson said Virginia Union’s football program gave it the edge over the other schools.
“The coaches, it’s like they stay on you, but they’re like fathers to the players, and I feel like that’s what I need the most,” he said. “Not having a father growing up, I need that father figure in my life to be always on top of me, making sure I’m doing my schoolwork, but making sure I am a dog on the football field. So I think that’s what stood out the most, how the coaches are with the players, how the team always bonds together and everything.”
The 6-foot-7-inch Jackson expects to contribute on the offensive line of the NCAA Division II Panthers.
“I’ll probably end up playing right tackle, because their tackle just entered the draft, so they’re looking for me to step up and be in that next position, to be that guy, to be a dominant offensive lineman,” he said.
With five years of playing experience, Jackson will join the college ranks that include his older brother, T.J. Jackson, who will be entering his redshirt junior year at Virginia Tech this fall.
Christian credited his mother, Lalita Baker, for helping him reach this point.
“My mom has been the father figure of my life, the mother of my life, all my life,” he said. “Raising four kids by herself, she’s really been there for me through anything. She always pushes me to do great. She never gave up on me.”
He plans to major in music, looking to become a composer.
Stinson has been playing baseball since he was 4 years old and estimates that it has been his goal to play in college since he was 10 or 11.
“When I was really young, it was just about having just straight fun, and then it turned into fun and work, and it all added up, and I thought if I had a chance at the college level, I just wanted to get there the best way I could,” he said.
He had two other offers in addition to the one from Mid-Atlantic Christian.
“I had one from Mary Baldwin and one from Bluefield, but I think just Mid-Atlantic, when I went down there to tour it and look around, I thought it was right for me, the coach was really nice,” Stinson said. “I just feel like it will be a great program for me to fit into. It fits best for me.”
He noted he has been Cumberland’s primary pitcher for the most part, though he also plays at first base as his secondary position.
He said the Mid-Atlantic Christian Mustangs coaches “want me as a pitcher and a hitter. I might DH, but I’ll be pitching too, so I like that. I like to hit a lot as well as I like to pitch, so it works out both ways.”
Stinson plans to major in biology.