Peach County wide receiver Kearis Jackson provided pivotal plays throughout 2016.
If he has his way, he’ll have one more big performance before the year comes to a close.
Jackson has a spot on Team Dedication in the RisingSeniors Georgia Junior Bowl, which will be played at 6 p.m. on Friday at Mercer. The 6-foot, 192-pound receiver is expected to be one of the major playmakers in the all-star game, much like he was for the Trojans throughout his junior season.
For Jackson, the chance to even suit up among the state’s best juniors is special.
“It means a lot, to play with some of the top athletes in Georgia,” Jackson said. “I got a chance to compete with some of the best athletes that are just as good as me. It’s an honor just to be out here this week.”
The exhibition game stands as a bookend to what started off as a trying football season for Jackson and his Peach County teammates. On Aug. 20, lineman Raekwon Smith died in a car crash that also left teammate Randy Williams with severe spinal injuries. Jackson said the accident served as a motivator for the team to rally around each other in the weeks and months that followed.
The Trojans responded with a 12-2 season that concluded with a 13-7 loss to GAC in the GHSA Class 3A semifinals.
“We showed dedication and heart with the tragedy that happened at the beginning of the year,” Jackson said. “It made us practice even harder to try and reach our goals. We fell short, so now we’re starting to rebuild and work as hard as we did last year.”
The season allowed Jackson to grow his game. He explained he played with a greater sense of physicality, which showed in his blocking and carries from the running back position. In Jackson’s mind, it was another case of accomplishing anything thrown his way.
And colleges are starting to notice. Jackson said there are around 10 teams that are recruiting him the hardest at this point. Among them is Georgia, where Jackson’s former high school teammate Tyrique McGhee is a freshman.
Jackson wore Georgia gloves to Wednesday’s practice and explained where they came from.
“I like Georgia,” Jackson said. “My homeboy (Tyrique) let me wear them. He’s like, ‘You need to come to Georgia.’ He had given me some gloves to represent and stuff like that.”
Jackson is considered an athlete in the Class of 2018 and expects to work at defensive back more in his senior season. Before he begins his offseason work to prepare, he has a chance to show out on an offense filled with talent.
Jackson’s plan for the game is to have fun and make plays. His goal is tangible: Score at least one touchdown.
Accomplishing all three objectives is easier considering how quickly Jackson and his new teammates have come together in the days leading up to the game.
“We’ve become like a family,” Jackson said. “We’ve bonded. It’s been a pretty good experience.”
Christian Armstrong, T, Warner Robins (Team Commitment)
Mitchell Fineran, PK, Peach County (Team Commitment)
Jeremy Horton, WR, Veterans (Team Dedication)
Kearis Jackson, WR, Peach County (Team Dedication)
Christian Meadows, G, Macon County (Team Dedication)
Gunnar Watson, QB, Taylor County (Team Commitment)
Xavier Wesley, OT, Central (Team Dedication)