TAMPA – Giving Jaylin Jackson the keys to the offense turned out to be a great decision by Cambridge Christian last season. The speedy and dynamic athlete moved from cornerback and wide receiver to quarterback as the Lancers finished 12-1 on its way to their very first state title appearance.
The 5’9″, 160-pounder enters his junior season hungry for more as he finished second on the team in touchdowns (24) behind only running back Andrew Cunningham (25) in 2015. Looking to reach 175 lbs. before the start of the regular season, Jackson can build off his sophomore campaign where he totaled 1,840 yards and had six games with multiple touchdowns.
Jackson started his football career at age 4 as a quarterback and played the position prior to entering high school. He moved to a role as an athlete during his freshman season with Garrett Young entrenched as the starter. In talking about his transition back to quarterback, Jackson said it was a true test for him.
“It was great. Some people doubted me,” Jackson said. “I showed them my experiences playing before high school.”
Last season, The Lancers advanced to the Class 2A state championship in Orlando with a perfect 12-0 record, but they suffered a 61-16 loss to a seasoned University Christian group. Jackson called the season unbelievable as Cambridge Christian made history all season long by recording the school’s first district title, first region title, first state title game and first appearance in the postseason.
“We put ourselves in that standard and we were just trying to our goal to play in the state championship and win it, but we fell short. We are coming back this year bigger stronger and faster.”
Jackson says playing quarterback was hard at first in Cambridge’s offensive scheme, but things started slow it down throughout the games last season. He took some snaps under center prior to games as a freshman so moving back to quarterback wasn’t a big deal for him.
Playing alongside some crafty athletes like Cunningham, J’Kobi Reddick, Caleb Young and Aaron Pierre, Jackson says “it’s fun because everybody is fast and it is fast paced.
“You don’t really go slow in our offense so that’s good for me because I’m always going fast. Andrew [Cunningham] is a real leader and he knows a lot since he’s been on the team since eighth grade.”
In terms of when he gained his confidence, Jackson says it was the second game of last season when he combined for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in a 41-10 against Shorecrest Prep. He had 222 total yards in that game.
The Lancers will have a much tougher schedule this season. They’ll travel to Twiggs (Ga.) for the opener. Six of the eight games come at home headlined by a visit from Tallahassee North Florida Christian, a team that advanced to the 2A region final last season. Jackson says he feels good about the better competition on tap.
He says his biggest strength is his quickness while he wants to continue to improve his arm strength and ability to read defenses.
Playing for eighth-year head coach Bob Dare is something that Jackson calls great. Over the last two seasons, Dare has helped the Lancers post a 20-3 record.
“He sets up a lot for me like launch points. He gets me as versatile as I can be and helps alot with my ability to learn.”
Jackson has no offers yet, but he says he would love to go to Miami and Ohio State. He doubles as a point guard for Cambridge Christian and on the Seba Select AAU team. Basketball is something that he says helps him with his lateral quickness and explosiveness.
He plans on taking trips to NC State and Samford this summer for camps and was at a Big County Preps event in April. His ultimate goal from football is to make to the NFL or at the very least play Division-I ball.
In the spring game last Friday against Calvary Christian, Jackson accounted for three touchdowns in a 56-10 victory. He had a 70 plus yard run that can be viewed here.
This kid is a lightning bolt when he finds open space and he has a strong enough arm to hit his targets more often than not. Despite being undersized, Jackson utilizes every ounce of his athleticism. He’s only going to get better this upcoming season.
Favorite players to watch – Tavon Austin, Vernon Hargreaves III, Tyrann Mathieu
Playlist for games – Drake (Views album)
Favorite movies – Friday
Favorite TV shows – Family Guy
Fun fact about you that nobody knows – “I workout in my room all the time. I do 200 push-ups and 200 sit-ups every day.”
Nickname from friends or teammates – “Jaccpot”
Game film: Jackson’s Hudl tape
Photo credit: Willie J. Allen Jr./Tampa Bay Times
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at email@example.com.