BROOKSVILLE — Hernando senior players Jeremiah Jackson and Connor Foradas made their college plans official Wednesday.
Jackson, who verbally committed last month after a six-month courtship to Ball State Universit, signed with the Cardinals.
Despite running for 1,474 yards and 16 touchdowns during his Leopard career, Jackson was recruited by the Ball State staff as a linebacker, and for good reason. With 132 tackles in both his junior and senior campaigns, he was among the leaders in the Tampa Bay area. Over his career, he also had 73 tackles for a loss, including 9.5 sacks, and four interceptions.
A two-star recruit, Jackson was also offered by UMass and Purdue. At 5-foot-11, 207 pounds, some considered him small to play linebacker, but he showed raw ability and promise during various combines, a process he praises for helping to keep him motivated.
“I told the juniors and sophomores on our team that these combines are so important,” Jackson said. “You get an opportunity to see just how good these other kids are, and it made me work 10 times harder.”
Foradas was a stalwart on the Hernando offensive line all four years, especially the past two seasons. The 6-foot-6, 280-pound tackle received offers from both Buffalo and Purdue in addition to Wofford, but it was the small-school feel of the campus in Spartanburg, S.C. that clinched the deal.
“The whole experience was like a roller coaster,” Foradas said. “The (Wofford) coaches made me feel at home, and being from the south, I really did want to stay down here.”
As the Leopards’ anchor up front, he manned a line that led to four rushers with over 100 yards on the season. Three of them ran for 100 yards in a game. As a junior, he paved the way for former Leopard and current Georgia Southern standout Tyrail Hawkins to rush for 764 yards and eight touchdowns.
In front of family, friends and Hernando staff and coaches, the two took a major step toward their futures, something everyone around acknowledged.
“It’s very satisfying for me to see these players take this step,” former Hernando coach Dwayne Mobley said. “They are both high-character kids, and that is why I got into coaching to begin with, to work with young men like these two.”
Mobley coached the Leopards the past two seasons and was the head football coach at Parrott Middle School when Jeremiah Jackson attended there and played running back and linebacker. As a former star running back for the University of Florida, Mobley understands the leap that these two are about to take.
“The only advice I can give them is to work hard,” he said. “They are going to have to earn everything at the next level.”
Former Hernando coach John Palmer, who led the program during the duo’s freshman and sophomore seasons, also praised his former players.
“They were so instrumental in our district title (in 2011),” Palmer said. “The great thing about both of them is that they are so academically motivated. They are both very coachable with great work ethic.”