When Hernando LB Jeremiah Jackson started talking to Ball State over the summer, he thought an offer would materialize soon.
So when the Cardinals started a late push for the Times’ North Suncoast defensive player of the year, Jackson was skeptical.
A weekend visit to campus was enough to change his mind.
Jackson said Monday evening that he orally committed to Ball State.
“I think they’ll give me a fair shot, just like anyone else,” Jackson said.
Jackson established himself as one of Tampa Bay’s top linebackers in a strong career for the Leopards. The 6-foot, 210-pound senior racked up 382 tackles during his four varsity seasons, including 132 each of the last two years. He amassed 72.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. As a running back, he rushed for almost 1,500 yards and 16 scores and helped the Leopards make three playoff appearances.
Because of his size, some colleges recruited Jackson as a running back, but the nephew of the late Hernando, University of Miami and NFL defensive lineman Jerome Brown wanted to stick to linebacker.
“I feel like that’s what I was best at,” Jackson said.
Jackson was also recruited by UMass, Purdue and Eastern Kentucky among others. He said he liked the feel of the Mid-American Conference school and the recent success of its program. The Cardinals grew from 6-6 in coach Pete Lembo’s first season to 9-4 in 2012 and 10-3 last fall.
“I feel like he’s gonna do something special,” Jackson said. “I want to be a part of that.”
Oral commitments are non-binding until recruits sign letters of intent during their senior years. National Signing Day is Feb. 5.