While looking for the right school, heralded Gibbs DE Tim Jackson hopes to find the place that will launch his career.
And he's not talking about football.
"I don't want this to be a four-year decision," Jackson said. "It's a 40-year decision. There are too many people who care just about football. Once school is over, they have nothing reliable to fall back on. I want to set myself up for a good career. School is first. Then football."
A look at the 6-foot-5, 220-pound standout's finalists illustrates what he's talking about. It includes academic heavyweights North Carolina, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest (he's also considering Iowa State, Kentucky, Ole Miss and USF).
Jackson has a 3.7 grade-point average. Now for the cool part: No matter which school he selects, Jackson will be the first in his immediate family to attend college.
His father, Al, is a truck driver; his mom, Cassandra, is a middle school teacher's aide.
"My parents never stop telling me how they regret not having a college experience," Jackson said.
Jackson made an official visit to Wake Forest in September and will travel to Stanford in December. The other three visits (yes, he plans to take them all) remain up for grabs. After visit No. 5, he will make his decision.
"Probably the next week," Jackson said.
Rivals.com rates Jackson as a three-star prospect. A three-year starter, he is known as a pass rush specialist who possesses a quick burst off the edge, making him difficult for opposing offensive tackles to handle.
"I try to use my speed, athleticism and technique," Jackson said.
Not to mention his brains.
"Most of my success in football is from my success in the classroom," Jackson said. "A lot of guys take it easy in their freshman and sophomore years. I really worked hard those years because I wanted to set myself up so that in my junior and senior years I could hone in on my football skills."
--KEITH NIEBUHR (firstname.lastname@example.org)