Jacques Rickerson Has Brotherly Motivation

Brothers share a common bond like no other, a bond of strength and support that can push them to their outer limits of sacrifice and competition. The Florida Gators tapped into some brotherly synergy in the recruiting class of 2006 by signing Brandon James and Jacques Rickerson, the dynamic duo that helped lead St. Augustine on an unbeaten run to the state 3A championship. Being a Gator is special for Rickerson, particularly since he'll be coming to Gainesville with his brother.

Brandon James and Jacques Rickerson share the same father, making them half-brothers. They've grown up together, spending their four years of high school playing ball for the Jackets --- Jacques mainly at corner and wide-out, and James playing a little bit of everything, mainly running back. They've seen the highs and lows of recruiting together, and have both experienced attention on the national level. It was only fitting that in the end, they wind up together for the next four years of their lives, hopefully continuing to motivate and push each other to excel at the next level.

"Oh yeah, we're very close." Rickerson said. "I'm probably closest with my brother because I can tell him anything because he's in almost the exact same position I am.

"It's something nice that we could go through together (the recruiting process). This is a process that many people don't get a chance to go through ... the college process. It's also a plus for both of us because we can push each other to do better. Since we're brothers, we know what we're capable of doing."

Florida's had a successful past at developing brothers into football talents --- John and Scot Brantley, Willie and Terry Jackson, Vernell and Johnell Brown, David and Eugene Peek, David and Dennis Forrester, Jermaine and Tremaine McCollum. Many times, however, with brothers signed in the same recruiting class, if you get one, you're kind of stuck with the other. This is hardly the case with James and Rickerson.

Rickerson was a must-get corner for the Gators in this signing class. His ability to play tight in man-coverage as well as his speed and ability to break fast on the football may win him a starting role sooner than later. The corner position is deadly thin this year and it's very possible that he could see significant playing time even as a true freshman.

"It's a great opportunity for me because they only have two with playing time coming back," he said, "and that gives me a chance to come in and show them what I can do and possibly have a starting position."

James is a versatile weapon that will be used in many ways once Florida's offense gets firmly established. For now, it appears he'll see the majority of his time on the field on special teams, getting a few carries out of the backfield or receptions in match-up situations. Though James is a bit on the small side at 5-7, 175, Rickerson believes the size issue is overblown and that his brother is sorely underrated.

"He's very underrated," he said. "The only thing that people focus on and the only thing that really kept him from being fully out there was his size. I think running backs like him should be smaller so that they can hide behind the line better."

In terms of style, James is an almost exact replica of Heisman winner Reggie Bush. He's smaller than Bush but their running styles and playmaking abilities are remarkably similar.

"That's what we talk about all the time," he said laughing. "He calls me 'Prime Time' because of Deion Sanders, and I call him 'Little Reggie' because of Reggie Bush."

The two brothers weren't always this close. In fact, it was quite the opposite for awhile. It wasn't until their early teens that they really latched onto each other. The rest is history.

"We grew up together, but we really started to spend more time together probably around the sixth grade," he said. "That was when our bond started to get pretty strong. Then we played basketball together, but never football until the ninth grade."

Sports became the common interest for the two brothers. During their high school years it became apparent that they would excel at the next level. It wasn't long before they each began receiving recruiting calls.

"During the process, when we noticed that some of the schools that I was looking at weren't going to offer him," Rickerson said, "Then I had to kind of decide whether I should go my own way or just think about myself more than both of us together."

The entire process was starting to get to Rickerson when the Florida Gators came along and made the decision easy.

"I had to do my own thing for a while until Florida came in and said they liked Brandon," he said, "then the both of us started really talking about it and we both just made the decision."

Rickerson assured us it wasn't a package deal, however. It never was for him. He was ready to make the commitment to separate from his brother if that was the decision that needed to be made. They did want to play together but they each realized it was important to approach it as a business decision.

"It was never a package deal." Rickerson said. "Brandon had his choices of schools and I had mine. We both had great offers. Luckily, the same program was interested in the two of us."

Early on in the process, Rickerson was hoping to receive interest from Miami and Florida State. He originally wanted it to be a Big Three shootout for his services. However, in late May, Rickerson went public by stating that Florida State and Miami would be wasting their time if they pursued him further. He felt that they had not showed him as much interest as a lot of other big D1 schools, and seemed to take it a little personally.

"It was basically because a lot of big schools were noticing me then, and then they (Florida State and Miami) were going to start to come on late, like they didn't get what they wanted," said Rickerson. "So I said that I'm not going to settle for second place. So I'd rather not waste their time."

With Florida State a heated rival of the Gators and Miami on the schedule in 2008, the opportunity to be a Gator is even more exciting for Rickerson.

"I'll just show them what they missed out on, that's all," he said. "They waited too long."

Ironically, the yearly Big Three recruiting battles just might prove to be the deciding factor of whether Rickerson sees early playing time or not. Cornerback and former Gator commit Patrick Robinson was once slated to play alongside Rickerson in the new Meyer Era. After committing to the Gators on national television, Robinson decided to switch to Florida State on signing day. Rickerson was all too familiar with the incident.

"Yeah, I actually went to the CaliFlorida game and we were talking about what schools he was interested in," Rickerson said. "I actually thought he was going to go to Miami. But when he committed [to Florida], I was like, wow, okay, now we have another great corner back there.

"Then he switched to Florida State at the last second. I said to myself well I'm just going to have to work extra hard now so I can definitely get that position and prove myself."

After chatting with Robinson, Jacques doesn't know what to think about the conspiracy theories out there that Robinson was a Seminole all along.

"I'm not sure how I feel about that, because when I was talking to him, it sounded like he was really, really interested in Miami," Rickerson said. "So that's definitely where I thought he was going to go. Then, out of nowhere, Florida State."

Rickerson will most likely be called upon to fill heavy shoes his first season. It's something the freshman Gator is truly looking forward to.

"Yeah, I kind of like challenges anyways," he said casually, "and I like playing in big crowds with a lot of people at the games. I'll be ready for it physically and mentally."

One thing is certain, the addition of his brother Brandon will have a tremendous effect on that confidence Rickerson has on the field. This being his first time away from home, his brother will be there to give him that added strength necessary to make it through that first year. So many freshman struggle to adjust at first not only because of the increased speed and skill of the game, but because of personal issues and adapting to social changes. A new schedule with tougher classes, the rigors of playing football at the next level, and making new friends is tough for an 18-year-old kid to handle all at once. This is the reality of high school recruiting and college football.

With Brandon and Jacques, many of those problems will be solved between themselves unintentionally. That brotherly bond will get them through a lot over the next four years, and hopefully it'll drive them to succeed on the football field as well. The brotherly love doesn't stop there, however. It's never too early for Gator fans to look towards the future.

"I have a younger brother too," Rickerson said. "He's 13 and he plays football as well."

The tradition continues.

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