After putting on a show for four years at Water Valley’s Death Valley, the hard-hitting Blue Devil duo of Chris Conard and C.J. Jackson announced in front of a packed house at Irie on the Square on Monday that they would be taking their abilities to Itawamba Community College.
The cornerback and linebacker have been integral parts of Water Valley’s “Wrecking Crew” defensive unit for the better part of four seasons.
“You hear about cornerstones, well, they’ve been the cornerstones of our defense for the past four years and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” WVHS defensive coordinator Richard Russo said. “I don’t care where they go, they’re going to be successful and continue to grow.”
Head coach Brad Embry echoed his coordinator’s thoughts.
“Obviously God blessed them. That’s the main thing,” he said. “They have the physical abilities, but it’s good to see them do what you ask of them and watch them grow not only as a football player but as a young man and to see things turn out well for them. I’m proud of them and I know they’ll do well.
“I look forward to watching them at Itawamba.”
After being recruited by a majority of the state’s community colleges, Conard and Jackson settled on the Indians following their official visit.
“When we first walked on the campus of ICC, the campus just stood out to us,” Conard said. “Everything is real nice. They have real nice facilities.”
Because of the demolition of the traditional protection zones for junior colleges, schools from across the state were free to dip into traditionally off limit schools.
“It was real tough with coaches calling every night, coming to basketball games and seeing you had a dozen missed calls from the guys,” Conard said. “When you make a great bond with someone you don’t want to let the other guys down, but you just have to make the right decision.”
The WVHS duo to see playing time immediately for the Indians.
“Corners get a reputation as being receivers that can’t catch, but Chris is a very physical corner and that’s going to help him if someone plays him in the correct scheme that allows him to be physical up at the line of scrimmage,” Russo said.
Some schools were recruiting Jackson at safety, but the linebacker said ICC offered a chance to play immediately at the position he’s most familiar with.
“They wanted to play me at linebacker. They didn’t see me much as a safety and that’s OK, some do and some don’t,” he said. “I feel like playing linebacker is something I’ve been doing my whole life. I might not be the biggest typical linebacker, but I think it’s all about the heart.”
Jackson later joked: “I pray I hit a little growth spurt so I can get a little taller and a little quicker.”
Russo expects ICC to utilize Jackson the same way the Blue Devils did.
“ICC is going to use him a lot like we did, play him at linebacker but also use him on some blitz schemes,” he said. “He could be very, very special.”
As seniors, Jackson and Conard recorded 157 and 77 tackles respectively.
Jackson also rushed for 428 yards and eight touchdowns on 53 carries this season.
Conard and Jackson will sign National Letters of Intent with ICC on Wednesday. (January 31, 2012, Page 10)