James Jackson transferred to North Cross (Roanoke, VA) in 2018, ahead of his sophomore year. Raiders varsity football head coach Stephen Alexander says Jackson was a “contributor right away” as a safety, backup quarterback and wide receiver.
Following the season, Alexander and North Cross defensive coordinator Shannon Taylor – Taylor starred at UVA in the late 1990s before a stint in the NFL – discussed with Jackson what it would take to earn scholarships from FBS programs.
“He had a good frame. He absolutely had a good frame, but he didn’t have the amount of explosive plays to be a scholarship player at a D1-level school,” Alexander said, recalling Jackson’s sophomore season. “Truthfully, the kid is about as tenacious a worker as I’ve ever been around. Coach Taylor and I explained to him what he needed to do to play at a scholarship level. Most kids don’t have either the work ethic or the ability to fix it. He has the ability and he worked to get faster and more explosive. In basketball, he played above the rim this year. He always had the frame. He’s a straight-A kid. He dedicated himself to improving, and he did.”
Playing at 6’3”, 195 pounds, Jackson became a VISAA Division II first-team all-state performer at wide receiver and outside linebacker his junior season. He helped North Cross to an 11-1 record that included a VISAA Division II state championship.
“Versatility is a good one,” Alexander said, describing the strengths of Jackson’s game last season. “He was pretty explosive for us on both sides of the ball. He played primarily on the outside as an edge player on defense. He proved to be a great pass rusher. He played well against the run. We play against some run-heavy teams and we brought him up on the outside. On offense, he plays outside at receiver. He has good speed and a big body. He had a bunch of TD catches for us last year. We went to him a lot in jump-ball situations. From his sophomore year to his junior year, he drastically improved his explosion. He worked hard to be able to jump and get the ball at its highest...
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