BATON ROUGE, La. (BVM) – A lot of athletes will move on after high school and find somewhere far from home to play their sport in college. However, every once in a while, an athlete like Kaleb Jackson comes along.
Jackson has been a football standout in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for quite some time. After starring at Liberty Magnet High School the last several years, the four-star running back had plenty of options to choose where he wanted to play college football. Ultimately, it came down to a couple of rivals: Alabama, or hometown LSU.
“It was between LSU and Alabama, and I think Texas A&M was in the mix as well,” Jackson said. “LSU, they wanted everything. They built a good relationship with me. They didn’t do the same old, same old. They did it in a loving and caring way, and showed that I’m more than a player.”
The senior running back officially committed to LSU last July.
Geaux Tigers💜💛!!! pic.twitter.com/UJvMclgWxG
— Kaleb Jackson (@Kaleb_TheGreat) July 12, 2022
He has formed a strong relationship with running backs coach Frank Wilson, who was his main recruiter, as well as head coach Brian Kelly, seeing the vision they have for him once he suits up at Tiger Stadium.
“I’ve built a great relationship,” Jackson said. “They’ve already told me my role. They have backs who can hit holes, and get 20, 30-yard runs. They recruited me so I can get those 60, 70-yard touchdowns. I’m going to do the best that I can, try to be the best running back on the team, and going to try to be the best player I can.”
The 2023 class is a special one for the Tigers. Not only is it ranked seventh in the nation, but it will feature an abundance of local products, including in-state guys like Zalence Heard, Kylin Jackson, Khai Prean, Dylan Carpenter and Ashton Stamps, as well as Baton Rouge natives in Jackson, quarterback Rickie Collins, and wide receiver Shelton Sampson Jr.
“I think it’s really special,” Jackson said. “LSU has always had the identity that the best players stay at home and play at LSU.”
One other Louisiana native that will be joining the Tigers next year is fellow four-star running back Trey Holly. Being able to bring in two four-star backs in the same class is always something special, particularly when they are both local guys. Both Holly and Jackson have already formed a close bond, and they have high expectations as they get to LSU.
— Trey Holly (@DrippyTrey2) August 22, 2022
“We’ve already talked about it, we’re going to be the greatest one-two punch in LSU history,” Jackson said. “I’m the fast dude who can break tackles and get away, and he’s a force who’s shifty in the hole and can make even more explosive plays. We’ve already built a great relationship.”
It won’t be surprising to see either back shine at the college level, and for Jackson, it’s been a long time in the making. After showing his speed as a soccer player during his youth, his dad decided to have him try out football.
“Honestly, I was just having fun with it,” Jackson said. “I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about football. They gave me the ball and told me to run, and that’s what I did. On defense, they told me to hit the guy with the ball, and that’s exactly what I did. I just had fun, enjoyed myself and being a kid.”
Before long, Jackson found his home at the running back position, proving not only his speed, but his physical nature, explosiveness and high football IQ, similar to some of the running backs he looks up to, including those from the past like Bo Jackson, and some current college and pro stars like Bijan Robinson, Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry.
In high school, Jackson has shown his speed further by taking up track, and has had some impressive finishes at state. However, his main reason for doing it was to be in even better condition for his main sport.
“I first started track just to improve my game and my speed for football,” Jackson mentioned.
It certainly has, as Jackson was tremendous in his four years at Liberty Magnet. During his first two seasons, Jackson and the Patriots were competing at the junior varsity level. As a freshman, he ran for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging over 10 yards per carry. In his sophomore season, the running back again came close to the 1,000-yard mark, averaging over 11 yards per tote.
“The transition from youth league to high school football, it’s a big transition,” Jackson said. “You need to be that player that’s going to be a difference-maker. I feel like that’s what I was in high school. I was going to be a difference-maker that made explosive plays that inspired the whole team. That’s exactly what I did.
“Us being two years at JV, I think it taught us a lot, what it takes to be varsity, and what the difference is between varsity and JV. We did pretty good my freshman and sophomore years, but we needed to step it up.”
Jackson and his Liberty Magnet teammates did just that. As the team moved up to the varsity level in 2021, the Patriots went 9-2, eventually losing in the postseason to St. Thomas More. The success was in large part due to the performance of their star running back who ran for 2,031 yards and 29 touchdowns, averaging over 14 yards per carry.
@Kaleb_TheGreat what a beast!! Hell of a run for 60 yards!! Could not be tackled! @JeritRoser @ScarboroughMike @Julie_Boudwin @samspiegs @Sheadixon @sctop10 @espn @notthefakeSVP @LSUfootball @FSUFootball @TCUFootball @OleMissFB @BUFootball @RecruitLouisian @LAvsAllYall pic.twitter.com/QpjIhYHz7M
— Brian Morris (@bmorris5486) October 9, 2021
“I think my junior year might be my best season of high school football,” Jackson said. “Going into the season, I was going for 2,000 yards. That’s what I achieved. I had my mind set on that goal and I knew I was going to get it … I was really proud of myself and my team.”
After the season, Jackson earned District 7-4A Offensive MVP, and was also named the 2021 Offensive Player of the Year by Louisiana Football Report.
Kaleb Jackson – Liberty Magnet!
Kaleb went over 100 yards rushing in all 11 games played this year! Averaging 184.6 yards per game!
– 2021 District 7-4A MVP
— Louisiana Football Report #LAHSFB (@LAFBReport) December 25, 2021
“Being here in the offseason, doing the sprints, doing the workouts, being with teammates, building that brotherhood, that’s what gets me to where I am today. I couldn’t do it by myself. I have to thank my teammates every chance I get, I thank my coaches, I thank my parents for bringing me to those workouts, telling me to keep pushing, giving me the right food, putting a roof over my head. I thank everybody who’s helped me to this point.”
Coming off a special 2021 season, the ninth-ranked running back in the Class of 2023 was poised to do even more in 2022. In his first game, he was already showcasing the elite talent that has made him a four-star recruit.
— Corey Rholdon (@Corey_RholdonTV) September 2, 2022
However, in that same contest, Jackson would suffer an ankle fracture that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Without their star, the Patriots would go just 1-8 on the year.
Although it was tough to sit out his final high school season, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back found it beneficial to be able to see the game from a new perspective.
“I had no time to mope around,” Jackson said. “I had to get right back up and motivate my team … My running backs coach at LSU, he told me a story of how a guy got hurt, and he couldn’t play the season. But looking at his team grind, and just wanting to be out there, it changed him. It changes you mentally, and it takes you from a young football player to a more mature football player. You understand that you have to cherish every single moment you get, because that could be your last down. It makes you a lot more appreciative of what you have.”
Whether it was on or off the field, there is no doubt Jackson left a legacy at Liberty Magnet. Now, he hopes to do the same at LSU, and has high hopes for his time with the Tigers.
“Personally, I want to fulfill my role, and be more than a role player,” Jackson said. “I want to be the player they depend on on 3rd-and-1, 4th-and-1, to get the first down every single time. Team goals, we’re going to go back to the SEC championship, we’re going to win it, and then we’re going to go right back to the national championship and we’re going to win that too.”
Following his time at LSU, Jackson hopes he has a chance to pursue what has been his main goal in the sport since he started playing at 5 years old: making it to the NFL.
“I’ve been dreaming of playing in the NFL since the day I touched the football,” Jackson said. “Just the fact that I have the opportunity to think about it means the world to me. I’m going to take that opportunity every chance I get.”