Linward Jackson started the football year off slow at his new position – as did the rest of the Grovetown High School Warriors – but he’s making up for lost time quick.
After rushing for five yards on three carries in the Warriors’ opener against Washington County, Jackson led the Warriors to a 48-14 win over Swainsboro, rushing for 81 yards on eight carries, including a 57-yard touchdown run and an electrifying 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Against perennial power North Augusta, Jackson once again led the team rushing for 69 yards on nine carries.
Jackson started playing football when he was in third grade and it has taken until his senior year before he returned to the offensive backfield. He plays both ways, doubling up as a defensive back as well.
“I started out at running back then in middle school I played O-line because of how aggressive I was,” said Jackson. “I was real small but I played right guard in middle school. Then I got to high school and I was switched to linebacker in 10th grade and I’ve been playing defense ever since. This year I got my chance to play running back.”
At 5-feet-7, 155 pounds, Jackson has figured out the style of runner he needs to be.
“I like to follow my block,” Jackson said. “A lot of guys are bigger than me. Not saying it can’t happen, but me running a 250-pound linebacker over is probably not going to happen. I like to have a block, especially if it’s up the middle. Once I see open field, I tend to hit a stride, because I tend to get excited and I hold the ball tighter.”
After his teammates opened up a big hole for him on his kickoff return and he was in the clear, Jackson wasn’t thinking about the crowd or celebrating, just on what his coaches instilled in him.
“Running form, really,” Jackson said. “Honestly, running form. Coach (Lyle) Burns always talks about running form, getting that arm back, and honestly that’s what was going through my mind. And finishing.”
Jackson said the team is bigger and stronger this year and gives the coaching staff the lion’s share of the credit and for what they’ve meant to him.
“Our whole coaching staff has made me a better person, a better young man. I thank God for Coach (Rodney) Holder and everybody. They’re really a big influence in my life.”
Calling it a testament to his family and the way he was raised, Warriors’ head coach Holder was effusive in praising Jackson.
“No. 1 his leadership is phenomenal,” said Holder. “He’s always been a really mature kid and worked hard. He’s one of the top ROTC cadets we have in the school, he’s a solid kid in the classroom, a solid kid around the building, out of the building. A great football player, too, way above all of that, he’s just a solid person.”
Jackson also runs track and was a leg on the Warriors’ 4x100 meter relay team that competed in the 2013 Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state championships. Football is the first sport he would like to continue with, however, and he has his sights set locally.
“I honestly want to go to Paine College so I kind of stay near my family,” Jackson said. “They are opening up a new football program. If it be God’s will, I can take it out of state. As long as I get my chance to play college football I’m fine.”