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."
LEGEND'S SON GETS OFFER: To say the least, big news arrived at the home of former Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams recently. His son, Tampa Catholic quarterback Doug Williams Jr., received a scholarship offer from Alabama State — his first. Grambling State, the school the elder Williams attended, also is showing interest.
"He knows the fact he got an offer is big," the senior Williams said.
QUICK HITS: Plant volleyball standout Ali McCurdy, who is headed to Duke, will make her official visit in January. …Two East Lake football players, DE Bobby Lyons (Army) and OL Collin Cole (Presbyterian), received their first offers last week. … Clearwater baseball standout Sean O'Brien, who signed with Florida State last week, is a lifelong Seminole fan. Said his father, Marty: "That's where he wanted to go, even if he wasn't playing any sport." That said, if O'Brien gets drafted next year, he might consider signing, depending on how much money is thrown his way.
Have an athlete, in any sport, who should be featured in our weekly recruiting notebook? E-mail Keith Niebuhr at email@example.com.
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