Kentucky Football pulls in big recruits left and right these days, but when Drake Jackson, a four-star, top 100 prospect out of Woodford County, picked the Cats over Ohio State, Tennessee, and Alabama back in December 2014, it was a big freaking deal. This morning on Kentucky Sports Radio, Jackson reflected on his career as a Wildcat, specifically, how much it meant to represent his home state and help change the program’s reputation. That point was hammered home with a story he told about a coach of a top-level program refusing to recruit him early on because he was also considering Kentucky, a “loser” program.
“This was when I was getting recruited before I had many offers but I had Kentucky already and he said, ‘Son, before I recruit you, I want to know if you’re going to consider playing at Kentucky.’ I said, ‘Of course, I grew up there.’ He said, ‘Well, I can’t recruit you then.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘Because if you’re considering playing at Kentucky, it means you have a loser mentality and I can’t recruit losers in my program.'”
Whoa. Jackson was too classy to share the coach’s name, but said changing how Kentucky Football is perceived is one of his proudest achievements as a Wildcat.
“It’s negative recruiting of course, but that was the stigma that Kentucky had. Two and ten, bottom feeder of the SEC and we’ve changed that, and I think that’s what I’m proud of more than anything. I think going 10-3, winning the Citrus Bowl, finishing No. 11 in the country means more to me than winning a national championship at another school that I don’t really have any tie to. So, I always say that’s what I’m more proud of.”
Fellow Kentuckian Landon Young, who also picked UK over offers from high-profile programs, agreed.
“It’s so much more than just putting on a jersey and going out and playing a game. You have Kentucky across your chest. You’re representing your faith, you’re representing your family, you’re representing everyone around this community as a whole.”
Not only did Jackson and Young help change the program’s reputation, they were founding members of the Big Blue Wall, John Schlarman’s legacy that put Kentucky on the map as a premier destination for offensive linemen.
“It met our expectations so well that I’ve got friends at other schools around the conference, all around college football, they saw how great our career was, how the fans interacted with us, the attention the media gave the offensive line, and the success that we had over the last five years, they saw how great our experience was,” Jackson said. “I don’t regret the decision. Landon and I — I know he’ll say the same thing — we chose to play at Kentucky over these other schools and not for a second do I take it granted at all.”
“Like he said, it met our expectations and blew them out of the water,” Young said. “It comes to every facet of not just our friends and other teams, but even into the next level, other coaches, scouts, that are talking to us, being like, ‘Man, you all did something special at Kentucky. That team is really something now, and it’s on a good path.’ We’re leaving stuff behind that those guys are going to continue to be able to take steps up on. I don’t regret a minute of my decision. We could have gone to a lot of different schools but I’m glad I stayed here. Being part of the BBN is the best decision of my life — besides marrying my wife.”
Nice save, Landon. You can hear Drake’s story below, or the entire interview below that. Remember, you can meet Landon and Drake, and maybe hear some more behind-the-scenes stories, at their autograph signing at KSBar and Grille Friday night from 6-8 p.m.