Does anything get better than this?
The coaching staff believed in Jackson from his sophomore year onward. They specifically outlined their plans—knowing that he could fit into this backfield. On Saturday, the four-star running back from Glenbard North told the coaching staff of his decision.
They were left to contain their elation until Jackson made it official on Tuesday evening, as reported by Beth Long. He selected NU over Iowa and Vanderbilt, and it was the overwhelming sense of character that always placed the Wildcats ahead.
"I think I've known for a while," he said. "I wanted to get reassurance, and I found myself comparing everything back to Northwestern."
Because of how close Evanston is to home, Jackson was able to visit campus a handful of times. Beyond the trust and dedication NU carried throughout his recruitment, he enjoyed the company of current players.
"There's definitely a type of person that Northwestern recruits," he said. "They're very precise with who they offer. [The players] are all very well spoken. Those are the type of people that I want to associate myself with."
And every week, he checked the NU commit tracker. The first eight pledges felt similarly about the program: They chose NU for the right reasons, and all of them hope to win championships.
"It does develop a sense of pride in that I know where the program is heading," Jackson said.
His interview struck similar chords as that of Tommy Doles. Both stressed the importance of personal qualities in the overall decision-making process. Wins are nice, but fleeting when you can't coexist with players off of the field.
In his approach to football, Jackson embodies this character. Many were initially concerned about the state of his recruitment when other running backs committed to NU. Solomon Vault gave his verbal on April 18 after a successful weekend visit. Then, three-star back Auston Anderson made the call last week.
This only drove him closer to a decision. Jackson would hate to enter into a situation and be the unquestioned starting running back. He thrives in adverse situations. With Vault, Anderson, Godwin Igwebuike and nameless others in the same backfield, he expects to become an improved player.
"It's just going to motivate me more," he said. "I'm going in and competing with two or three other guys. If I know I'm not number one, I'll work as hard as I have to until I get there."
It's the same character that runs through NU players. Even with this class, they may never have the most naturally gifted roster in the Big Ten. They live for the entire college experience—and that involves the team concept.
"They treat everyone the same," Jackson said. "There's no hierarchy and that makes me feel very comfortable. It's all about competing for jobs and playing time."
Justin Jackson is talented. The four stars tell you that much.
Justin Jackson understands the meaning of character. Conversations will tell you that.