Tigers Land Big-Hitting Texas Safety

Safety Kenji Jackson of Mansfield, Tex., has earned acclaim for his big hitting and ability to close a lot of ground in a short amount of time. So it's fitting that it took him only a couple of days to close the recruiting process after visiting Missouri this past weekend.


Jackson, a 6-foot, 185-pound prospect who had offers from a bevy of major programs -- among others, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa --- committed to become a Tiger quickly after making the trip to Columbia.

"Man, I went on my visit and it just blew me away," Jackson said. "The place was great, the people and the coaches made me feel like family ... It just felt like home."

Jackson, who had trimmed his list to MU, KU and TCU, said the campus and the facilities also impacted his choice.

It was great. Everything seemed really new. When I went to Kansas, it seemed a little more old. Missouri kind of reminded me of where I'm from," he said.

Jackson's host was linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, a fellow Texan who has quickly made his mark at MU -- and has done so without having to redshirt. Both Weatherspoon and the staff made it clear that playing right away is possible for any freshman.
"They told me they have two seniors coming back, but they like to play a lot of [nickel]. he said the best guys will play," he said of Gary Pinkel. "I went to practice and watched some of their safeties and they're pretty good, but i think I can come in and give them some kind of look."

"He's a great player, like a [Dallas Cowboys safety] Roy Williams type. When he hits you, he's going to separate you from the ball," Mansfield coach Kirk Thor said.

"And he closes in a hurry. I guess ‘rangy' would be a good word for him."

Jackson has a 3.0-plus GPA and is the picture of a well-rounded young man, Thor said.

"Character-wise, he's impeccable. It's always ‘yes sir,' ‘no sir.' He never gets in trouble … I can't say enough good things about him. In four years I've never once seen him loaf. He's going to out-work the guys next to him," Thor said.

Jackson was named the MVP of a district that included Wisconsin commitment Marcus Cromartie and Iowa commitment David Cato. He had an interception to go along with 75 solo tackles and 30 assists this year. He covers well, Thor said, but he also can lay the wood like a linebacker.

"He's cut. He plays at 185 and hits like he's 220," the coach said. "When he hits, you can hear it from the top of the stands."

"It's probably my strength right now, but I've been working really hard on my coverage in man. I think I got a lot better in coverage," Jackson said. "But my tackling is -- that's what I do."

Jackson graduates high school June 9 and will head to Columbia shortly thereafter.

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