Coach Speak: Merrick Jackson

2013 Althoff Catholic defensive lineman Merrick Jackson is headed to Illinois, and finished up his senior season Saturday in Champaign. His head coach, Ken Turner reflects on his career inside.

2013 Illinois defensive line commit Merrick Jackson played in Champaign Friday for the 2A state championship.

Although Jackson and Althoff Catholic fought hard, Mercer County took the title 14-7. After the game, Althoff Catholic head coach Ken Turner reflected on Jackson's career.

"He is a kid that has fun playing football," Turner said. "He is a powerful payer, and is a really good kid outside of football."

He continued, "He is nice away from football and is like an animal when he is on the field, so he is a great kid to coach."

Turner has plenty of great memories of coaching Jackson during his career at Althoff Catholic -- and he recalled several after Friday's state game.

"Watching him in the first game of the year, he picked off a screen and ran it back like 25 yards," Turner said. "And he stepped on a guy like a true running back, for a guy his size. I will remember that forever."

Turner chuckled then added, "And last year the center from the other ream snapped the ball and he just knocked it immediately out of his hands, and he makes plays for being a big guy -- a lot of memories."

Jackson is listed at 6-foot-3, 340 pounds, but Turner says that can be deceiving.

"He can move around for a guy that size," Turner said. "If you look at his calves he has small calves -- and I think that contributes to how quick he is."

That was evident during Friday's state game as Jackson recorded 9 tackles (8 solo), one tackle for loss, a fumble recovery, and a pass breakup.

"What he will bring to Illinois is his quickness and he has the hunger to play the game," Turner said. "Once he gets in a lot better shape when he gets here, he should be a heck of a football player for Illinois."

Turner took a moment to reflect on Jackson's career at Althoff Catholic.

"He has improved each year, and worked on his hand speed and that's gotten better," Jackson said. "And just getting in overall division one type of shape, when he gets here I think he will be good."

He continued, "They have great tradition on the defensive line here. So I think he will be good."

But that's not all that Jackson will bring to the team.

"If anybody needs help he is there for them and always has that smile on his face," Turner said. "He is well liked around school and is just a very positive person."

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