Chad Simmons

In-Depth With RB Commit Deon Jackson

One of the top rated prospects on the board in the class of 2017 was Georgia athlete Deon Jackson.  The three star prospect picked Duke over more than 30 other offers at the end of July.  We spoke with Jackson about that process, which schools are still trying to recruit him, and how successful they may be.

So I heard you go to Pace Academy with Wendell Carter, Jr, another priority Duke recruit on the basketball side of things…

Yeah, he’s a good friend of mine, we’ve actually be going to school together since middle school. We’ve talked a little bit about him being recruited by Duke, I’m trying to get him to come with me to Duke.

With this weekend’s visit to Duke, how many visits is that to Durham?

I’ve been there before but this was my first time getting to be there for a game. It was really cool man, I had a good time there and it seemed like most of the fans were really supportive and eager to see them play, so that was good. I liked the new facilities and the new platforms and the new look of everything, that was also really cool. I was sitting with a lot of the other recruits, we were towards the end zone on the home side where they run in.

Which recruits did you get a chance to meet and spend some time with?

I was sitting with two of the commits, Damani (Neal) and Derrick (Tangelo). All the commits really talk with each other though, so even though this was my first time actually meeting those guys, it didn’t feel like it because of how much we talk as a group. We talk in the group chat that we have.

What’s been your perspective on being a part of that group chat?

It’s pretty cool, my relationship with the other commits has gotten a lot stronger in talking with all of them in that group chat. It kinda helped me be more comfortable, especially with this being my first time actually getting to see Damani and Derrick and it was just like I had known them for a long time, it didn’t feel like it was the first time we were getting to know each other. When I committed before I made it public, I had told Drew Jordan about that and that’s when I was first put into that group chat, so I’ve been in it since the day I committed.

Was Drew the guy from the class that you were primarily talking with prior to your commitment?

Drew and Jacob (Rimmer), that was pretty much it. They were both really trying to tell me that Duke was the best place both academically and with athletics that I could commit to. That was pretty much their sell and they were talking with me a lot about Duke as a football program is on the up rise. They have a academics are there and that’s the best place in the country where you can have the best mix of academics and athletics. That was basically their pitch and that was also what the coaches said a lot too. Obviously it worked since I committed.

What was your feedback for them during that communication process? Did you have a lot of questions that you needed to have answered?

I didn’t really ask them too much honestly. When I went on my visit, everything that I really needed to know was answered and I was actually pretty much ready to commit to Duke when I was talking with Coach Cutcliffe when we were on that visit, but my mom and I decided to wait so I could have time to think more about it and also finish my visits. Duke was the place I knew I wanted to be at.

What was it about Duke’s pitch that got you prepared to commit?

Honestly going into the visit, I didn’t really think I was going to commit at all, I was just trying to see what Duke had to offer and everything. Once I sat down with Coach Cut and he was asking me what I was looking for in a school, I basically told him everything that I was looking for and he told me that if you really mean that, Duke really has everything that you are saying you are looking for in a school. Then I actually sat there and I realized that he was right about it. I really wanted a great relationship with the coaches and I talk with the coaches there pretty much every single day. I was looking for a good combination of academics and athletics and he was able to show me in that was one of their main pitches and I wanted a place where I had a chance to earn early playing time.

When did Duke begin seriously recruiting you?

Really it was, once they offered me, it was like May 23rd, it was not that long of a process. When they first started getting involved with me, I didn’t really know too much about them. When I thought about Duke then, I first thought about Duke Basketball and I needed to learn more about Duke Football and actually look closely at what they have done the past few years and then see what they do. The more I learned about them made me want to go visit them and then the rest is history really.

Was your decision based on the program in general?  The recent success?  A combination of the two?

It was more about how they did their program. As far as winning, that’s a very important factor too, but the coaches were good in talking with me about how with my decision, I’m not just making a 4 year decision, I’m really making a 40 year decision which made me think a lot about that if the NFL doesn’t work out for whatever reason, I needed something more than just football and a Duke degree behind my name, you can’t beat that.

When you decided you had a lot of big ticket schools that were options for you as well…can you share what it was like to finally make your decision? 

A lot of the schools that had recruited me had a lot of commits football-wise, but the thing that put Duke over the top was the academic strength of the school and their degrees. That’s an edge that they had over everybody else and another edge was I really had the closest relationship with the coaching staff there out of anybody recruiting me.

What is it about the Duke coaching staff that built such a relationship?

I feel like I was a priority to them first and foremost. I received constant contact from several of the Duke coaches, they have been talking to me every single day since I was offered by Duke. That definitely helped me feel more comfortable with them than anybody else and it’s why we formed a better relationship because when I could talk with them every single day, I had time to ask them whatever I needed to and they always told me that if I needed to talk to them about anything I could always reach out whenever I wanted to. I talk to Coach Boyette every day, I probably talk with Coach Faris two or three times a week and then I also talk to Coach Cut every Friday on game days and stuff like that.

With all those conversations, what are the most memorable things you’ve heard from those coaches?

I have to say when Coach Cutcliffe told me to think about college as a 40 year plan and not just a 4 year plan, that just really has stuck with me since he said it.

How long was it after the Duke visit when you said you were ready to commit to when you were ready to commit and make it public?

It might have been about a month or so after that, I had called Coach Cut and the coaches and I still had one visit scheduled to Missouri and it didn’t feel right to me put it out there publicly until after that visit. So I waited like a few days or a week after that and then I put it out there.

What was the mindset like when it came time to announce it?

Nothing really, I was just relieved that the process was almost over. They were really excited when I called, when I called Coach Cut he was in a break on his radio show and he had a 5 minute break. He was really excited and he shocked I was ready to commit so early, he thought I wasn’t going to commit for awhile. All the coaching staff was really excited, it was cool.

So what are your thoughts on the overall class for Duke in 2017?

I think our class is doing really well, we’ve got a lot of really good players at key positions like O-Line, D-Line, all over the place, we’ve got a great quarterback. I’m excited to be a part of this class.

Has the Duke staff identified to you where they see you playing once you arrive?

Yeah I’m going in there to play running back. They said I could play running back and receiver, they want to get the ball into my hands in different ways. For receiver they are looking at me in the slot mostly.

How would you describe your approach as a running back?

I’m a pretty balanced running back, I’m pretty big too, I’m almost 210 pounds. I’m very fast and I have power and speed. I’m also good at running routes in the passing game too.

So let’s talk your recent visit, what was it like for you doing this visit knowing that you are a part of the Duke class that’ll be there next season?

It’s pretty cool getting to walk around campus and imagining that I’m going to be on that field playing. It was a great experience. I was pretty much able to go to the game, I was going to try and spend time with the players, but I had to leave kinda early so I didn’t get a chance to. I got to meet with the coaches too. The meeting with the coaches was pretty good, they were going to try and make it down for one of my games when they are free. Looking forward to that and I also think all the commits are going to be doing an official visit together in December, like the first or second week of December.

Is that the only official visit setup at this point?

Yeah that’s the only way I know of that’s setup. Virginia Tech and Missouri are getting me to try and take officials. I’m thinking about taking them, but it’s going to take a whole lot, I’d say it’s nearly impossible for any team to sway me away from Duke, but I’m considering taking those official visits.

What’s going into your process in deciding whether to take those other official visits or not taking them?

It’s really just in am I interested to go take them. I don’t want to take a visit with a closed mind, but I wouldn’t want to waste the coaches time if they bring me down for a visit and I’m not even thinking about their school at all. Those coaches pretty much hit me up every day or two from Virginia Tech and Missouri. They aren’t trying to sell their schools anymore because they know I’ve heard their pitches already about why their school is better. Right now they are just telling me that they want to try and get me to their campuses for officials and see their programs for myself rather than just them telling me about it. Both schools are really supportive of my decision and they told me they are proud of where I chose to commit, they just tell me they want me to take an official visit there so I can see for myself.

When are you and your family making the decision whether to take those other official visits or not take them?

Probably the next couple of weeks really.

Has that come up with the Duke staff yet?

No they haven’t talked with me at all about taking other officials. I’m 100% firm in my decision which is why I’m not even sure if I want to take those other officials or not.

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