By Mark Maxwell
Big players make big plays. Glenbard North senior running back Justin Jackson proved this week why he deserves to be such a highly ranked player.
Jackson, a Northwestern commit, has been turning heads since his sophomore season in Carol Stream. His big play ability combined with his grinder mentality makes him a hot commodity in the college ranks. Right now, he is listed as the 8th ranked Rivals player in the state and the 24th ranked Rivals running back in the entire nation.
“Northwestern, they run a little bit of veer and speed option,” Jackson said. “Just getting people in space, that's where I like to work best. I'm really excited about it but obviously I still have a job to do here. We're not where we need to be yet and I haven't accomplished everything I want to accomplish here. I just got to finish out the season strong.”
Jackson’s best performance of the year came at the perfect time for his 13th ranked team. With critical DuPage Valley Conference implications on the line, Glenbard North would face off against the 11th ranked team in the state, Naperville Central. In that game, Jackson tore up the turf, recording 405 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Perhaps the most surprising part of the performance was that he did it against such a quality opponent. Playing in the highly-competitive DVC, the Redhawks came into the contest allowing less than 10 points per game. They yielded 40 points to Jackson’s high-powered rushing attack.
[MORE: EDGY TIM's Week 8 Preview]
“We've been improving so much in our offense, our offensive line, our fullbacks and receivers. Everyone has been improving so much throughout the course of the year and that just showed last weekend against a very good Naperville Central defense,” Jackson said. “We were able to have some success against them with some long runs but also some sustained drives. That's what I'm really proud of are those long drives. They really wear down a defense and also keep a great offense off the field.”
Jackson had three touchdown runs of greater than 50 yards. Glenbard North coach Mike Wilkens will undoubtedly miss the dynamic running back when he joins Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats next fall.
“Since his sophomore year, people keep asking, 'Can he get any better than that?' And then his junior year, he was obviously the Gatorade player of the year,” Wilkens told CSNChicago.com. “Then this year, so far just phenomenal. I think once he gets on campus at Evanston, he's going to put on some weight and get faster. The sky is the limit for him.”
In addition to all the talent, Jackson is as humble and grounded as they come. It could be very easy for a top recruit to lose focus on his high school season but Jackson isn’t looking past Friday night when they play another big game, this time against No. 8 Wheaton Warrenville South (6-1).
Jackson carried the ball 29 times for 184 yards in the first half. In the second half, he broke out for touchdown runs of 18 and 80 yards. His strong performance led Glenbard North to a 37-21 victory and clinched the DVC title for the second straight year.