Dixie Hollins running back Kabriel Jackson could not wait for spring practice. • After watching his teammates struggle to an 0-10 season in 2012, the junior wanted to get back on the football field in the worst way. • Jackson tore a ligament in his right knee in the first game of last season against Northeast. • After months of rehab, he is back for spring drills with a brace on his knee.
“I have a lot to prove,’’ he said. “This upcoming season, I have to prove to people that I’m still Kabriel. I know what I can do.’’
Jackson admits that it wasn’t easy getting back in playing shape. There were times after the injury, he said, when he didn’t feel like doing anything.
“In the beginning, if it wasn’t for my mom, Coach (Shannon) Brooks and my girlfriend, I don’t think I would’ve ever played football again,’’ he said. “I was really down. I was sure I would never put on pads again. When the doctors told me I couldn’t play last season it broke my heart.’’
When the denial and depression finally subsided, Jackson started the slow grind of getting back in shape. He used the spring as motivation. He was in the weight room, at the pool and at the track.
“Something just clicked in my head,’’ Jackson said. “Rehab, rehab, rehab. I said that every day. I just pushed it to my limits.’’
So far this spring, Jackson said every thing feels fine. He made it through the Rebels’ first contact practice on Saturday. In fact, he said he feels better now than ever.
“I’d say it’s 100 percent,’’ Jackson said. “I think I’ll be faster than I used to be. And I’ve put on about 15 pounds, which is going to make me harder to tackle.
“I felt like the old me. I felt bionic. Like Superman. I was nervous, but after a couple hits I got used to it.’’
One Rebel who is not as lucky is tailback Demandre Lambert.
Lambert tore three ligaments in his knee, also in the first game of 2012, and missed the rest of the year. He had surgery again Monday to tighten his LCL, according to Brooks.
“He’s probably out for good,” Brooks said. “We’ll see how it goes. It was a very bad injury. Think of the injury (former South Carolina running back) Marcus Lattimore had. It was that bad.”
Jackson said he has tried to keep Lambert’s spirits up.
“I’m used to (Lambert) being on my left side,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be weird not playing with him. My best friend is gone. He’s down right now. I need to encourage him. I talk to him every night. Sometimes he says he wants to give up. I tell him not to give up. I’m going to push him. I want to help him try to come back.”
For much of last year, Palm Harbor University’s Stephen Charron and John Tauber flew under the radar. Coach Matt LePain said that will not be the case this season.
Thanks to graduation, as well as a few defections, the sophomores have thrust themselves into prominent roles as starting linebackers that will allow them to be more in the spotlight.
Both have size (Charron is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds; Tauber 6-2, 210) and have range. They also have experience. Charron played mostly on the defensive line last year but is being moved back to linebacker, a position PHU was thin at in the spring. Tauber is back as a starting linebacker.
“Steve and I have known each other since we were kids playing baseball together,” Tauber said. “It made sense to move Steve to linebacker and to have us play together. We both have more of a leadership role on defense now.”
The two also are workout warriors. Charron ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds and has squatted 515 pounds five times. Tauber is among the strongest on the team.
Their versatility is one reason LePain is toying with the idea of having both line up in the backfield as part of a jumbo package on offense.
“I like the freedom of playing linebacker,” Charron said. “I wouldn’t mind getting a few carries, too. I’m just glad to do what I can to help us win.”
East Lake receiver George Campbell was offered by Boston College, Tennessee and Ole Miss this week.
Clearwater Central Catholic defensive line Justus Reed received offers from North Carolina and Purdue within the past week.
Tweet of the day
All in all Ronde is tight with my family but. Donnie > Ronde — East Lake DB Devin Abraham, referring to the retirement of Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ronde Barber, and his dad, Donnie Abraham, also a former Buc
Staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this report.