CAROL STREAM – As a young child, Justin Jackson had a better chance of being found in front of a television playing video games than on an athletic field.
In fact, it wasn’t until the second grade when he tagged along to older brother Phil’s football registration that Jackson decided to give that sport a try.
Now, many years later, the Glenbard North senior has created a lasting legacy for himself after completing one of the best all-time single season performances by a high school running back in state history.
“It’s not that I didn’t like sports, I just wasn’t really into them,” said Jackson, who began his career with the Carol Stream Panthers program. “But I am glad I did decide to play.”
Jackson’s opponents might have a different opinion. This fall, he rushed for 3,171 yards and 38 touchdowns in 11 games while catching 16 passes for 220 yards and an additional score. He also added two interceptions as one of the top defensive backs around.
“He improved every single year,” Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. “He was phenomenal as a junior
and to be even better as a senior, that is really hard to fathom.
“He averaged over 308 [rushing] yards in our conference. That is ridiculous.
“And the defenses knew it was going to be Justin. Just with the quality of our conference, to still do that means a heck of a lot.”
In addition to his gaudy numbers, there is something else that stands out about Jackson.
“His character,” Wilkens said. “You would not think that’s the best football player in the state, whether you are just looking at him or talking to him. He doesn’t carry himself with braggadocio, he is very humble. What separates him from other players is not only his athletic ability but his character. It’s flawless.”
For his part, Jackson called the four seasons in a Glenbard North uniform the best time of his life.
“From playing with my brother as a sophomore,” he said, “to playing with those seniors last year and then playing with the guys I grew up with this year. We were back-to-back DVC champs and that hasn’t been done here at this school for quite a while. And also making it to state [last year].
“It was a fun-filled three years [on varsity] and we accomplished a lot. I think we took the program to a very good place right now and hopefully the guys coming in will keep that up and go on to win our first state title.”
Always one to deflect credit, the senior points to brother Phil and his father, Phil Sr., for helping out along the way.
“Just looking at the way my brother carried himself on the field,” he said, “and then my dad, on and off the field, he has had a heavy influence on both myself and my brother. He taught us about being a good person in the community and respecting others, on and off the field.”
Next up for Jackson, after he concludes his time as the starting point guard on the basketball team, is football at Northwestern University.
“It’s very exciting,” Jackson said. “I really didn’t want to think about it too much before the end of this football year and before the end of basketball. But it’s getting closer and closer. Hopefully, I can show them what I can do.”