It didn't take very long for linebacker Jeremiah Jackson to make an impact in his initial season in an Ooltewah football jersey. He came in with high expectations for himself, and after one game the coaching staff shared those sentiments.
The 6-foot, 228-pounder finished with 110 tackles - 13 for lost yardage - four sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown in his freshman season last year for the Owls, who advanced to the Class 5A state quarterfinals. It was a good start to his high school career but has only made him thirstier for more success.
He was projected to split playing time at the start of the 2012 season but took over the starting role full time after the Brainerd game, when the Owl sharing the position tore a knee ligament.
"I realized then that I needed to mature and take on a bigger role," Jackson said. "I was a little nervous when I found out I was going to start, but the coaches liked the way I played in the Brainerd game, and it gave me more confidence. I thought that coming in as a freshman I was going to have to catch up, but God is good and He gave me the wisdom to lead."
New Ooltewah coach Mac Bryan wasn't around to see Jackson in action during the 2012 season but was impressed by what he's seen on video and in practices.
"For him to do what he did as a true freshman is very impressive," Bryan said. "As a sophomore, we'd like to see more consistent play out of him."
That's a request that Jackson will be glad to grant. He dropped down from 238 pounds to 228 during the offseason, and he feels he's both faster and stronger heading into his second varsity season. He feels that will help the Owls in their ultimate goal.
"I've just been working to get better. I cut some weight because I want to be more capable of making dynamic plays," he said. "I want to be able to make plays and be at the right place at the right time - there for my teammates. We want to make it all the way to the state championship this season, but to do that we have to focus on practice, listen, cooperate and put in the work."