CAROL STREAM - With his scholarship offers reaching the double-digits, Glenbard North junior running back Justin Jackson had his work cut out for him during the recruiting process.
But in the end, one school clearly stood above the rest.
After taking his time with the entire ordeal, the Jackson made his college choice official Tuesday, committing to Northwestern.
"Northwestern is really close and that gave them a nice advantage," Jackson said. "I got up there a lot. I went there on an overnight and got comfortable with the players and the coaches.
"The program continues to get better and they are building a new lakefront facility. There is a lot of fan support and the fan base is excited. All of that made it a pretty easy decision for me."
Jackson is not the only local product who will be suiting up for the Wildcats in two years. Wheaton North quarterback Clayton Thorton also made the same choice earlier in March.
"They reach out to the DVC very well," Jackson said of the DuPage Valley Conference. "Evan Watkins from Glenbard North also went there. They identify talent really early on.
"And it is such a great academic school as well as a football school. That makes it very attractive to players out here."
The academic side is very important to Jackson, who carries a 5.0 GPA.
"The education will set you up for the rest of your life," he said.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder is coming off an outstanding fall season on the gridiron. He rushed for 2,612 yards and 35 touchdowns while leading Glenbard North to the Class 8A state title game. In the playoffs alone, the junior gained 890 rushing yards on 188 carries in five games and scored 15 of the team's 17 touchdowns.
An outstanding athlete who is the starting point guard on the basketball team, he rarely comes off the field for the Panthers, also playing in the defensive secondary. When he reaches Northwestern, he expects his main contributions to be on offense.
"I'm coming in as a running back," Jackson said. "That is where I have been playing since I was 8. I'm going to come in and compete for that. If in a few years, I need to change, I will do that but I'm going to do everything I can to contribute as a running back."
With his college decision out of the way, Jackson can now focus on the upcoming summer camp and his senior season. As for his thoughts on the recruiting process, it was quite the whirlwind.
"It was fun getting to go out and see a lot of great schools and facilities and travel the country," the junior said. "Obviously in the end, it became a little overwhelming so it is kind of nice to get it over with."
Currently lifting weights and conditioning in preparation for his final season in a Panthers' uniform, he is looking forward to something in the short term.
"There was a lot of pressure and a lot of stuff going on," Jackson said. "I've been told that once you make a decision, it gets pretty quiet. I'm very excited for that, to have some peace and quiet for a little bit."