Choctaw’s RJ Jackson had his world turned upside down two years ago. His father, with whom he was very close, suddenly passed away.
“It was pretty tough,” admitted the talented 6-3, 245-pound tight end/defensive end. “It happened around the middle of my sophomore season. I was coming off an injury and I couldn’t really take time to process everything. He was a big part of my life. I miss him every day.”
Jackson was forced to deal with that loss while Choctaw enjoyed one of its best seasons in school history. The Yellowjackets finished as the 6A-II runner-up, falling to top-ranked Bixby 17-14 in the state title game.
“He’s a really mature kid, emotionally,” said Choctaw head coach Jake Corbin of Jackson. “I’m fortunate to still have my father around, and my stepfather as well, and losing them would crush me at my age. I can’t imagine a high school kid having to go through that. How he’s been able to handle that and still balance work and school and athletics, it’s really kind of remarkable.“
Fast forward two years and Jackson has become a highly sought-after college football prospect. He’s currently the second-ranked tight end in Oklahoma’s 2023 class, according to Prep Redzone Oklahoma.
“Tight end in our offense, and in a lot of offenses, is arguably the hardest position to play other than quarterback,” claimed Corbin. “You have to know all the passing routes and all the blocking schemes. He was able to grasp that very quickly as a 14-year-old his freshman year. I was amazed how cognitively talented he was, not just physically.”
“Ya, there’s a degree of difficulty playing tight end, but it comes pretty easy to me,” admitted Jackson. “But I can see where it looks like a lot, knowing the blocking schemes and the routes to run, and all the run plays and pass plays. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Jackson’s understanding of the game comes from being exposed to it at an early age.
“I watched a lot of football growing up,” recalled Jackson, who has received a handful of Division I scholarship offers. “I played Madden all the time. Just being around football my whole life, really. You have to understand things quickly. When you play the game, you can’t let it overwhelm you.”
A three-year starter for the Yellowjackets, Jackson hasn’t been overwhelmed on the football field for quite some time. He’s become a reliable offensive weapon for fellow senior quarterback Steele Wasel.
“We’ve definitely gotten there,” Jackson said about his on-the-field connection with Wasel. “There’s been a couple of times where there was a play call, he’ll see something and I’ll see something and we’ll look at each other and know what we’re going to do on that play. The chemistry is there.”
“He’s just a clutch kid,” stated Corbin. “If there’s a play that needs to be made when it’s down the wire, he’ll find a way to make it.”
After graduating some key defensive contributors, Corbin and the Yellowjackets needed to find some new playmakers for this season. Jackson didn’t hesitate when he was asked to play on both sides of the ball.
“He dabbled in it a little bit a year ago, but he’s gone full-time this year,” said Corbin. “We needed to shore up our defensive line. He’s been more than willing to do whatever it takes. I appreciate that quality in him and in a lot of our players.”
With just three months remaining in his high school football career, Jackson reflects on quickly his time as a Yellowjacket has gone by.
“Ya, it’s definitely flown by,” Jackson said. “It’s one of those things where it feels like it’s been a long time, but then you look up and it’s like, wow, I’m a senior now. It went by that fast. It’s crazy.”
Jackson has matured quite a bit since that fateful day in 2020. The tragedy motivates him to be the best player and best person he can be.
“I just keep moving forward and try to make him proud every day,” added Jackson. “Anytime I’m tired or I feel like I can’t do it anymore, I just remember why I’m playing and that usually gets me through it.”