Who is the player of the year in IHSA football this year?
Sure, I realize more than anyone that we still have two weeks left in the regular season, along with five weeks of playoff football. I'm more than open to anyone making moves this fall.
Yet if I had to pick a front-runner at this stage, how can you go wrong in taking Superman. Superman? He's otherwise known as Glenbard North senior running back and defensive back Justin Jackson.
Jackson, who as a junior in 2012 was a consensus All-State player as well as the 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois, literally can do it all on the football field.
Jackson shattered his own record for the most rushing yards gained in a DuPage Valley conference game last Friday when he had 42 carries for 405 yards and five touchdowns in the Panthers' 40-34 win over Naperville Central. Just a slightly above-average night for your ordinary superhero.
[MORE: Egdy Tim's Week 8 power rankings]
No, folks, he didn't put up those numbers against Cupcake High or Twinkie Prep. Jackson had those yards against a state-ranked Naperville Central (5-2) team in a critical conference game.
Yet he doesn't just run with the ball. Superman also catches the ball and plays defense just as well. As a sophomore Superman, I mean Jackson made the 2011 EDGYTIM.com All-State team as a defensive back. Jackson literally never leaves the field.
Now let me run that last sentence past you. Jackson plays for Glenbard North, a Class 8A school playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state. Jackson will carry the football anywhere from 30-to-40 times per game, then once the offense is done he flips over and plays defensive back. In Class 8A, the largest class in Illinois; not an easy task, to say the least.
Jackson also has been the focus and target of every team the Panthers play each week. Everyone from the opposing fans, opposing coaches, ticket takers, the band, the lunchroom ladies....they all know where Jackson is on every play in every game. Jackson has also heard it all and seen it all. I witnessed Jackson getting razed from an opposing group of students as he jogged into an opposing stadium earlier this year. As I stood next to Jackson, he took it all in, kept his thoughts to himself, rolled his eyes and chuckled before going to work.
You see it takes a lot more than a few student taunts to throw Superman off of his game.
Yet Jackson isn't perfect. He and the Panthers lost two games last season, including the Class 8A state title game to Mount Carmel. Trust me, nothing has motivated Jackson more than those two losses along with a Week 1 loss this season to Batavia, the second straight opening game loss to the Bulldogs.
When it's all said and done, however, Jackson has again set the bar as far as I'm concerned for Player of the Year honors.