Offensive coordinators have so much to do during practice and games that they often don't have time to get familiar with the guys on the defensive side of the ball.
When a player is as special as Darnell Jackson, however, a coach can't help himself.
"I know him real well from the fact that Darnell's played all over the field, and we've had him for four years," Evans High offensive coordinator Mike Bibee said. "From being a halfback to a linebacker to punt returner to kick returner, he did it all."
Coaches at Mars Hill Academy, a Division II school in Mars Hill, N.C., saw enough of that athletic ability when Jackson sent them a tape that they decided to offer him a spot on the team. On Friday, he solidified that relationship, signing a letter of intent to play for the Mountain Lions next season.
"Toward the end of football season, it didn't look like it was going to happen," Jackson said of his chances of playing collegiate football. "I just kept at it. I think I actually recruited Mars Hill.
"I wasn't giving up. I was determined to get a scholarship."
Bibee said the senior was the ideal role model.
"He was our best defender, but what we'll miss is not his athletic ability. We can replace athletes," Bibee said. "What we'll miss is his character, because he's the kind of kid you need on the team.
"He sets the perfect example, on and off the field."
Jackson primarily played linebacker, where he could fully use his leadership skills on defense. He's not sure where he'll line up at the South Atlantic Conference college, but he said the Mountain Lions play the same kind of 3-4 scheme he was familiar with at Evans.
"I just think of myself as a football player," Jackson said. "Not as a linebacker or any one position."
In Bibee's mind, there is one telltale sign that illustrates just how important a player like Jackson is to a football program. It's how far the program has come from where it was Jackson's freshman year to where it is today.
"People used to ask, 'Is Evans going to be any good this year?' " Bibee said. "Now, people ask, 'How good is Evans going to be this year?' "
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