CANTON — Ebony Jackson made an impression in his brief time at Cherokee.
After missing the first six games of the season due to an eligibility issue following his transfer from Kell, Jackson shined in his debut with the Warriors.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete scored twice to help Cherokee beat Roswell for one of its biggest wins of the season. Jackson took a short pass 95 yards for a touchdown, and he returned an interception for a touchdown on defense.
Jackson, however, tore his anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his right knee later in the game. Still, the on-field display was enough to warrant his Division I offers.
“He’s a five-star kid who got a three-star rating because he never went and participated in all the summer camps,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “He’s the type of talent who can end up playing on Sundays.”
On Thursday, Jackson announced on Twitter his intentions to play college football at Arkansas, decommitting from Maryland after seven months of being linked to the Terrapins. His original college commitment came in April 2019 when he chose Tennessee, but he reopened the recruiting process about a month later.
Now, days away from second National Signing Day, Jackson said he was at peace with his decision to choose Arkansas.
“It’s crazy because I really didn’t expect my recruiting process to be like this,” he said. “I never expected to be as well-known as I am, and it’s tough because there are good people at every school. At the end of the day, I felt my heart was leading me in this direction.”
Cherokee finished the season 8-4 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs, but Shaw and the team’s fans could only wonder what would have been possible with a full season of Jackson in the fold.
As a junior at Kell, Jackson rushed for 522 yards on 79 carries while also totaling 10 receptions for 196 yards. It was his first full season playing the running back position and he scored nine total touchdowns.
Jackson’s football potential is even more pronounced when considering he won Class AAAAA state titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes during both his sophomore and junior years. He ran 10.57 seconds in the 100 and 20.13 in the 200.
“You want to know why our defense played so well this year? For five weeks, we had probably the best scout-team practice player in the country,” Shaw said. “I really would have loved to have seen what he could do for a full season.”
Jackson said it was difficult for him during the first half of last season to practice during the week only to stand on the sidelines Friday nights while waiting on the eligibility ruling from the Georgia High School Association.
“I’ve never really missed games like I had to this past season, and I came back for my first game, and I get injured of course,” Jackson said. “It was hard, but I try to keep everything positive. Everything happens for a reason. I’m just extremely thankful for everyone at this school for supporting me.”
Jackson visited Arkansas for the first time this past week, and he received a visit from new Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman on Thursday. Jackson said Pittman laid out a plan for him, both athletically and academically, and Jackson committed later that afternoon.
Jackson is the 16th commit for Arkansas’ 2020 recruiting class, and the second running back. Currently, the Razorbacks are projected to have seven running backs on the roster for 2020 and Jackson said he is rehabbing three days a week to get back to health in hopes of competing for playing time.
With seemingly untapped potential, Shaw said he was blunt with Pittman when describing Jackson.
“He’s one of the smartest football players I’ve ever coached, and he’s probably the best player I have ever coached,” Shaw said. “I told coach Pittman that Ebony is going to score a lot of touchdowns for him. Kids like him don’t grow on trees.”