Oak Ridge, Tenn. (WATE)- The Oak Ridge Wildcats are peaking at the right time as postseason play is just a few weeks away and so is a key player on their offense.
Football has always been a major part of running back Kendall Jackson’s life, following in his two older brother’s footsteps at a young age.
“I saw them play in the boys club and when I was in pampers,” said Jackson. “I was trying to be on the field somewhere.”
His older brothers Trey and Caleb are two of his biggest supporters, offering guidance having come up through Oak Ridge head coach Joe Gaddis’ program.
“Before every game they tell me to stay humble and play your game. It’s your game, we know what you can do just go play your game,” said the junior back.
While he says he does not go into games with a specific goal in mind, he approaches each Friday night ready to play to his standard: playing physical and fast.
Jackson spends a lot of his time off of the gridiron in the weight room.
“He works maybe harder off the field than on the field,” said Gaddis. “He works really hard on the field but he lives in the weight room. He’s a strong, strong young man.”
His teammate and friend Jonathan Stewart says Jackson’s work ethic is “crazy,” he’s constantly asking him if he wants to work out. Their time spent together in the gym has helped solidify their brotherhood.
“We push each other. In practice we go hard if he sees me slacking he’ll tell me, if I see him slacking I tell him so we keep that brotherhood and [it] keeps us rolling,” said Stewart.
Jackson exploded onto the scene last season as a sophomore, rushing for over 1,059 yards on 158 carries and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. His sophomore year performance got him offers from the next level including Duke, Arizona State, Cincinnati, Tulane, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee.
While he says Alabama is his “dream school,” he was still very happy to get an offer from his home state school.
“The way he finished up the season last year, I expected him to have those offers,” said Gaddis. “He does and they’re going to continue to come in.”
This season the junior has battled through injuries that has limited his production. However, Gaddis says he believes Jackson is back to full health and his standout performance against Mt. Juliet was a testament to that.
Jackson rushed for 171 yards on 26 carries for two touchdown runs of 50 and 40 yards. His explosive performance helped the Wildcats to a 27-21 week nine victory over the Golden Bears.
“We need to be able to run the football to be able to do the things on offense that we need to do,” said Gaddis. “He’s the focal point of that.”
Jackson dictates the run and having him healthy heading into the postseason as a threat in the backfield is a huge bonus for Oak Ridge.
“If he has big games like he did the other night, chances are really good we’re going to win,” reiterated Gaddis. “I feel like if we can run the football effectively, ’cause we know we can throw it we have good receivers we have a good quarterback, and if our offensive line blocks well and Kendall gets a lot of yards, 171 like last week, we’re likely to win the game because our defense is pretty good.”
The Wildcats face Powell next in a region match up Friday October, 23.