ROGERSVILLE – Benjamin Jackson sat down at a table with family, coaches and friends on Wednesday afternoon, took pen in hand and made it official.
The West Greene senior signed his certificate of commitment used by the service academies to play Division I football at Army.
“It’s definitely a big relief,” said the WPIAL’s third all-time leading rusher (7,105 yards) and single-season rushing champion (3,079 yards). “It’s something that’s been on my mind and in my heart for a very long time. I’ve prayed about it at nights. I’ve talked to my parents since the beginning of the season.”
Jackson was one of five local football players that previously committed to sign, the others putting pen to paper on national letters of intent. Washington two-way lineman Chase Mitchell signed with Liberty. Burgettstown offensive and defensive lineman Riley Kemper signed with Robert Morris. The Colonials also landed Belle Vernon offense lineman Hayden Baron. Leopards’ kicker/punter Cameron Guess signed with Pitt and wide receiver Nolan Labuda with Akron.
Jackson had many family members on hand, including his father Brian, mother Crystal, brothers Beau and Brian Andrew and sister BreAnn. He also invited his former football coaches over the years, including Beau, Brian Hanson, Rod Huffman, Ben Brudnock and Eric Bedilion.
Brian Jackson is thankful his son will be given a chance to compete in big-time college football.
“We always want to prepare our kids to play at the next level and that’s a big challenge,” Brian said. “The process has been long but it’s been very gratifying, to watch some of the things he did. We’re just thankful that he was given an opportunity to play at a place like Army.”
Brian could sense his son was a cut above long ago.
“It’s been a long journey, since he’s been in Little League,” he said. “I could tell from the beginning that he was different, he was a special player. Not just because he’s my son but because I could tell what kind of talent he had, and so could the guys that were around me.”
Crystal has enjoyed witnessing not only Jackson but all his classmates through the years.
“I’ve watched these boys play ball since they’ve been in kindergarten and have really enjoyed watching them grow and turn into young men,” Crystal said. “And, I’m very excited for Benjamin to get this opportunity to further his career in a game that he loves in football.”
Jackson left a lasting impression on first-year head coach Hanson, who is thrilled to see his standout player headed to Army.
“It’s awesome to see because he’s so deserving of it,” Hanson said. “He’s worked really, really hard. And, it’s been a dream school for him.
“Before the whole recruiting process ever started he said he wanted to have an opportunity to serve in the military. So just to see a kid who’s put in all that work and dedication, and then to have the coaches at West Point recognize his talents and what kind of kid he is character-wise is a good feeling for me as a coach and for our whole school to see one of our own make it.”
Also, Waynesburg High School junior wrestler Luca Augustine orally committed to Pitt.