Belleville Althoff Catholic High School might sound familiar to Illinois fans. The alma mater of graduating senior running back Jason Ford has again produced a Division 1 talent in defensive tackle Merrick Jackson. Jackson recently visited Champaign to see what the "New Era" of Illinois football was all about.
"I like the atmosphere, and it would be a great place to play football."
Jackson and Ford have been in touch.
"I've talked with him a couple times, but not that much. So far it hasn't been anything about recruiting."
On his recent visit, Jackson became acquainted with the campus and the coaches. Head coach Tim Beckman's enthusiasm caught Jackson's eye.
"They took us on a tour. The coaches are real nice. I like the head coach. He has a lot of energy."
In addition to Beckman, Coach Chris Beatty has been in contact with Jackson as well.
"Coach Beatty has been recruiting me. He's a very cool guy. He tells me how much he wants me to come to Illinois."
Being right in the middle of overlapping fan bases geographically, Jackson grew up without any alliance to any specific college.
"I didn't grow up following any particular school."
Belleville Althoff has been in a bit of a slump lately, but last fall the team started to improve. Althoff returned to the playoffs for the first time in a few years.
"As a team, we went 5-5. We lost in the first round of the playoffs. It was our first game we've had in a while. Next year we should be moving back down to 2A, so we should do some damage down there."
Jackson is a big body, but he can still move well. His quickness is one of the many qualities catching the eye of college coaches.
"My coaches tell me I'm quick for my size. I guess I'm pretty strong too. I'm 6'-2", 320. I just play wherever my coaches need me to."