Byron Jackson played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Derrick Davis played with the Atlanta Falcons. They take every opportunity to push their younger brother who has scholarship offers from dozens of schools, but has a short list of Southern Cal, Cal, Oklahoma, Florida and LSU. He's trying to work out a visit to Gainesville on January 21, but says that he and Florida Coach Urban Meyer are still trying to get the details worked out.
Working hard, Jackson knows, will take him places. He has impressive stats --- 103 catches for 1,875 yards and 26 touchdowns the past two seasons --- but it's not always about the stats.
"I think I already have a pretty good work ethic," he said, "but at my high school, I'm the leader. I push everyone to get better, to work harder, but I think my own work ethic will get even better when I'm in school and working with guys who are already in the system and more mature. They'll push me to get better and to work harder. I'm the kind of guy when I see someone on my team pushing it and working harder, that makes me want to work harder, too."
The 5-11, 175-pounder has 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. He's benched 225 and has a 36-inch vertical. Those numbers are very good, but he says they could be better.
"I can get stronger," he said, "and I will. I know I can work on my speed so I can get more separation when I run my routes, too."
"That [Saban leaving] could affect me a little bit," he said. "We'll have to see what happens over there, like what kind of coach they get and what kind of offense they'll run."
With the LSU situation in the air, it puts a little more emphasis on checking out the other four schools.
California, he noted, is in need of big play wide receivers, so the Bears are definitely on his list. Southern Cal plays a wide open style, already has several players from his high school, and "it's right down the street." He likes the way Oklahoma spreads the ball around to its wide receivers and says it doesn't hurt that the Sooners have running back Adrian Peterson to keep safeties honest.
As for the Florida Gators, he said, "I've been liking them since I was young. They've always been a wide receiver's heaven. I love the way they spread the ball around to their wide receivers."
The Gators came on the scene late for Jackson, but Coach Meyer and his staff are working hard to make up ground.
"Even though they came on to me late, I'm going to take a good look to see what they've got to offer," he said.
Qualifying won't be a problem for Jackson, who's got a 3.0 in the classroom and 1280 on his SAT. He says his first interest is communications, but he wants to look further into the possibility of a business major and he also wants to investigate a criminal justice major.
"I want to go to a school that has good academics and a good support system for the athletes," he said. "I can't play football all my life, so I want to go to a school that's going to get me ready for life after football."
Right now, it is football that will earn him a ticket to that education. He's got strengths to his game, and one glaring weakness that he says must be corrected.
"My strength is that I run good routes and I can make things happen after the catch," he said. "I can make people miss. I'm very aware of where the ball is and where the man is, so I can make the catch in traffic.
"Where I have to improve is blocking. I feel like I've got the other things that I need, but I've got to become a good blocker. I want to be a complete player and I can't say I'm a complete player until I am a good blocker. I can work on that."
It's when the ball is in the air that Jackson becomes totally focused, ready to do whatever he has to do to make the catch.
"When I see the ball in the air, I feel like it's mine," he said. "That's my baby and I'm not going to let my baby hit the ground."
Bill and Gayle Jackson's youngest son will be playing in two big all-star games to showcase his talent. He'll be in Miami for next Sunday's California-Florida All-Star Game and then he will be playing in San Antonio in the US Army All-American Game. After those games are through, he will complete the process of looking into all the schools on his short list before making the right decision.
"I want to go to a school where I fit in as a person and that has good academics," he said. "I want to go to a school where I can be an impact player as a freshman."