Christian Jackson, a three-star cornerback out of Lassiter High School in Marietta Georgia, pledged to the Michigan State Spartans more than five months ago. Now it’s time for Michigan State fans to get to know him.
Jackson was an early recruit for the 2018 class. After a decommitment from Ohio wide receiver Joseph Scates, Jackson became the fourth member of the class, which currently has 15 players total.
Michigan State’s recruiting pipeline is almost all Midwest prospects — namely, Michigan and Ohio — with a few exceptions. So, how did head coach Mark Dantonio and the rest of the staff go into SEC country and pluck the No. 43 cornerback in the entire South Region (per Scout.com)?
“I was born in Michigan and both of my parents went to MSU, so I grew up an MSU fan,” Jackson said. “That being said, I’ve always wanted to go to Michigan State, so when they offered me, I knew that was it for me — I was committing.”
Obviously, Jackson has strong roots in the state of Michigan, and the university itself. He spent some of his childhood here, and left when he was around 5 or 6-years-old.
Michigan State was not the first school from the Great Lakes State to offer Jackson, however.
“I was offered by Michigan first and after Michigan offered, MSU came to school and they offered me shortly afterward.”
In addition to those two schools, he also had offers from North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Tulane and more.
Jackson is actually the second cornerback from Georgia to commit to Michigan State in as many recruiting classes. Tre Person, a three-star cornerback from Atlanta, is part of the 2017 freshmen class, and he could very well find himself on the field in a young MSU secondary this season.
The recruiting process is exciting for young high school athletes, of course, but it has it ups and downs. The path to commitment can be taxing on students who are trying to focus on schoolwork and their high school football career.
“I was one of the early commits, but the (recruiting) process has two sides to it,” Jackson said. “It's great because all of these schools want you and show you so much attention, but it also can be annoying sometimes as well.”
I think the above quote is important to remember. It’s easy for fans and media members to commend a recruit for choosing your favorite school, or to criticize them for choosing a rival, but we don’t actually understand the process because we didn’t go through it.
Jackson ranks as the No. 70 cornerback in the 247Sports Composite, and the No. 79 player overall in the Peach State. He fares even better with Rivals.com, where he is ranked as the 57th cornerback in the country. Scout also lists him as the No. 11 CB prospect in Georgia.
Rankings don’t always mean everything, though. Jackson wants to let his play do the talking. He knows exactly what he can bring to East Lansing next season, and he knows what to work on before arriving.
“My strengths as a football player are being physical at the line of scrimmage and playing the ball,” Jackson said. “I need to work on doing anything and everything faster because everything happens a step faster on the next level.”
As Jackson alludes to, he is a strong and physical defensive back. He is also lengthy at 6-foot-1-inch and solid at 185 pounds.
The Michigan State secondary is very young this season. There are five true freshmen, one redshirt freshman and two sophomores listed as either cornerbacks or defensive backs on the roster. The 2018 recruiting class already has three other prospects besides Jackson expected to play in the defensive backfield.
Though this secondary is young and lacks experience, it is talented. The defensive backfield will certainly have growing pains this year and next, but competition is going to be stiff there in 2018 — especially at cornerback. That does not deter Jackson from setting lofty goals for himself, however.
“There is competition (in the secondary), but I believe competition brings the best out of me,” Jackson said. “With that being said, my goal is to start as a true freshman.”
The potential future competition has not made Jackson wary of any of his soon-to-be-teammates, either. He has begun building up his connection with the fellow 2018 freshmen class, and talks to them frequently.
“All of the commits talk a lot, actually,” he said. “We stay in touch in our Twitter group chat.”
Building relationships with his peers is of the utmost importance, and so is doing so with his future coaches. He frequently stays in touch with Dantonio and the staff to ensure he’s on the right path to success.
“I talk to Coach Dantonio or one of the coaches once every week,” Jackson said. “Me and all of the coaches have a great relationship.”
The Michigan State coaching staff seems to do a great job of keeping in touch with their incoming class, despite having to focus on their current season. Every recruit I have spoken to has said the same thing. It could be easy for them to push these high school students to the back burner, but instead they foster and build strong relationships.
Dantonio is not the only mentor in Jackson’s life, however. The Lassiter High School star also has somebody very close to him that has been there every step of the way.
“My role model is my dad, and he has taught me to never be out-worked.”
As mentioned earlier, Jackson’s father is an alumnus of Michigan State University. This played a big part in Jackson’s decision. He grew up looking up to the Michigan State football players.
The amazing part about Jackson having so much success on the football field is that he was not a natural football player. He did not play the sport in his youth, or even early in his high school career. That speaks volumes about how gifted he is as an athlete and how hard he has worked to hone his new craft.
“I've only been playing football for two years,” Jackson said. “I was a basketball player until my sophomore year (of high school).”
That is not unlike fellow 2018 cornerback recruit, Davion Williams, who is also a basketball player, but will focus on football for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of parallels between the two sports. Several players, such as Antonio Gates and Darren Fells, have gone on to have fantastic football careers in the NFL after starting their athletic journeys as basketball standouts.
Jackson is well aware of last year’s 3-9 campaign, and the rough offseason. He thinks the program will get back on track soon.
“My outlook is that we can only get better (and we will).”
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the other entries in our Commitment Spotlight series, and learn more about the future Spartans.
Be sure to peep Jackson’s great highlight reel below (per Hudl).