Fans of Sumter High football will hate to see 3-year starting quarterback Zykiem Jackson go, but Highland Community College in Highland, Kansas, will be happy to see him coming.
Jackson, the Region VI-5A Offensive Player of the Year, signed a …
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Jackson, the Region VI-5A Offensive Player of the Year, signed a national letter of intent to play football for the Scotties on Wednesday during a National Signing Day event at Sumter High School.
"Zykiem has been probably our best player for three years now," said Sumter head coach Mark Barnes. "He's a great team leader and a great winner. I've been a head coach for a long time, and I tell a lot of people that Zykiem is the best winner I've ever coached. He's been a quarterback for us, but he's going to go there and they're going to try him out at quarterback, and if that doesn't work out, they'll look at him at slot receiver and find out which one he really is."
Jackson, who had completed 76 of 128 passes for 1,005 yards and 11 scores and was leading the team in rushing with 816 yards before breaking his collarbone in the ninth game of his senior season, said he's looking forward to going half a country away where he can concentrate on football and his academics.
"It's the best thing for me and for my career," he said. "They're giving me an opportunity when nobody else really did, and I'm taking advantage of it. It's a good program.
"I've got some friends out there that have told me what it's like out there, what's going on, how the program runs and everything," Jackson said. "It's nothing but football and class, class and football. Summer camp will tell, but I'm going to go out there and compete and do what I do best and try to help the team win games."
Barnes said Highland and other junior college football programs offer a kind of recruiting second chance to players that need another year of recruiting when they are late to qualify. He said Highland in particular, which signed three of Jackson's teammates on Wednesday as well, might have taken a greater interest in Sumter this year because of the success of defensive tackle Jahkeem Green, who signed with the Scotties last year.
"I talk to our players all the time about this," Barnes said. "When you're the first guy to go somewhere, it's important to do it right. The guy that went there from here last year was Jahkeem Green, and Jakeem has gone up there and done a great job, and he's got some SEC (Southeastern Conference) offers as a defensive lineman. So he kind of paved the way for their coaches wanting to come come back here and get other good players.
"It's up to these guys to go up there and do the same," he said. "It's important when you leave to stay and to make it, then they want Sumter High guys. What they are right now for us is an avenue for guys that aren't academically where they need to be. All these ended up making it, but this time last year it looked like they might not, and that hurts you recruiting-wise. But now it's a second chance for them and we look forward to seeing them go up and do great things."
The other Sumter players who signed with Highland are defensive tackle Ronald McGee, defensive end Jonathan Butler and outside linebacker Sterling McKenzie. Since each is academically qualified to go to a NCAA Division I school, they do not need to graduate from Highland and can leave after just one semester if they get an offer, according to Barnes.
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