Faces in KS: R.J. Jackson

R.J. Jackson of Beloit is one of the top players to watch in 3A for the 2014 season. (Chet Kuplen)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Sep 3, 2014

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R.J. Jackson of Beloit High School defines the term athlete. Not just any ordinary athlete though, he is one of the top recruits in football for Kansas in the class of 2015, committing to Air Force last summer. Being just over 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he also stands out in a crowd, someone that I easily noticed this past spring covering the state track meet. You can definitely tell Jackson has spent a lot of time working out.

“I use the weight room to blow off steam and to get better as an athlete,” Jackson said. “I think track helps me because not only does it help keep me in shape, I feel it makes me faster and helps me with my form when during the season I seem to lose a little bit of that.”

So why do we classify him as such an athlete? He can line up at fullback, tight end, defensive end and even linebacker for the Trojans. In track he runs on relays, throws the shot put (48’8), and has a 52 second 400 meter dash time. You don't often see the combination of that  athleticism, size and speed. His stats on the football field are all over the place: rushing, receiving, sacks, tackles for loss, you name it Jackson can do it.

Jackson versatility was a big part of Beloit’s 3A state runner-up run a year ago. He earned first team All-3A tight end from Kpreps. Beloit, who finished 13-1 in 2013, loses several key players from a year ago but is still a team to look for in 3A this season.

“Our expectations haven’t changed, we want to get back to the title game,” Jackson said. “We were really close last year, we just need to take steps in the right direction.”

Beloit is a big sports town in Kansas with high expectations every year. Add in a state runner up in basketball last season for the Trojans, the 2013 8-man II sub-state runner-up & 2014 1A-II state basketball champion , Beloit St. John’s Tipton, and there’s a lot to be proud of in the town of 3,800 in North Central Kansas. Can you imagine if the two would combine?

“It's awesome having the success of both schools.  The last few years, we've really built the relationship between the schools up.  It had a rough spell there for a while, but now we're pretty good friends and going to different schools isn't a big deal.  It's fun to think about sometimes how much of a powerhouse we could be if we combined.” Jackson said.

Beloit, led by head coach Greg Koenig, opens up the season on Friday against Concordia. Koenig, now in his ninth season, is an impressive 74-20 at Beloit. The Trojans are 4-1 all-time in state title games over the playoff era, winning it all in 1975,1976, 1977, 1996 and taking second last season.  Jackson and his teammates will look to make the schools sixth all-time appearance in a state title game this season. We caught up with him below.

Q&A w/ R.J. Jackson

How did you get involved in athletics?

I've always been a very competitive person so I feel like sports and being active started before I got involved in organized sports.  I started, though, in city recreational sports and have carried on through the divisions.

Talk about how last football season went for you and your team?

It was a blast.  Had a disappointing end but there a lot of teams that can't say they were the second best team in their division. I had a great time with a great group of seniors and I can only hope that we get back this year and seal the deal.

Any goals for you this season?

We have three goals each season as a team: be league champs, district champs, and state champs.  

What are the teams expectations in 2014?

 Our teams' expectations are to make it back to Hutchinson and win the whole thing.  We were really close last year and we understand how hard it is to go all the way but we are taking steps in the right direction.

What will it take to make a run in 3A this season?

It's gonna take a lot of hard work during practice.  That's obviously where we get better and we are needing to make as much improvement as possible each and every day.

What do your opponents look like this season?

I personally try not to look past our opponent for the week ahead, so my main focus has been on Concordia.  They look solid and we're ready for the Street Fight on Highway 9.  I don't live under a rock, though, and our league is going to be good this year, all around.  No game will be easy.

Biggest rival?

Concordia, for sure.  

How has practice went so far for you?

Practice has been good.  We have made a lot of progress getting new guys put into our scheme and we get better each and every day.  It's time for a game, though. I'm tired of hitting my guys.

Talk about some of the key returnees for the Trojans?

Elliot Kimminau, Dustin Reiter, Gavin Koch, Levi Robison, Derrick Koster, Jace Adams, Carter Wessling, Colson Reames, and Hunter Budke are all returners and we will have a lot of younger guys stepping up and filling spots.

What do you use as motivation to become a better player?

Knowing that other people are better than me motivates me.  I've always had the desire to be the best player possible and I will work to be the best.

How important is the weight room to you? 

The weight room is a big deal for me.  Not only for improving, but also as a vice.  Weight lifting is what I use in the offseason to blow off steam.  I feel lifting makes me a much better player and I enjoy doing it.

How does track help you for football?

I think track helps me because not only does it help keep me in shape, I feel it makes me faster and helps me with my form when during the season I seem to lose a little bit of that.  Track keeps me honest.

You committed to Air Force, describe what its like out there in Colorado?

Oh my goodness, it's beautiful.  It is by far one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen.  All of their facilities are top of the line and the view is unbelievable. 

Why Air Force and who else was recruiting and offered?

I knew I wanted to go to the Air Force after the Junior Day I went to because of the coaching staff and all of the opportunities that come with the school.  They are a very prestigious school and going there will prepare me for life after football.  I was offered a full ride from Wyoming and Air Force.  Butler, Northern Iowa, K-State, KU, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, and Army were all also involved in my recruiting process. Butler was the only one of those schools that offered a scholarship of any kind.

Favorite subject in school?

I like maths and sciences.  Subject wise, probably chemistry.

Do you play any other sports besides football and track?

I have done basketball for the last three years and then just about any other makeshift game I can find that keeps me active.  

What is it like to grow up in Beloit?

It's hard at times, just like it is everywhere, but I wouldn't trade it.  It has taught me a lot about myself and it's been a good situation for me to grow up and learn.

What is it like to have two programs that are good in your town in Beloit and BSJT? 

It's awesome.  The last few years, we've really built the relationship between the schools up.  It had a rough spell there for a while, but now we're pretty good friends and going to different schools isn't a big deal.  It's fun to think about sometimes how much of a powerhouse we could be if we combined. It's really nice that both of our programs have had success.

Best opposing player you've faced in high school?

I have a hard time recollecting games let alone players, so I don't really know as though I could pick one individual player out.  If someone is in my way, I hit them and move on to the next one.  I've played a lot of good players, just can't remember who haha.

When you aren't playing sports, what do you do for fun?

I really enjoy traveling and going to leadership camps.  Most of that comes over the summer though because of being in sports year round, but also just hanging out with friends and family.  Real original, I know, but I really enjoy other people's company.

One thing the average person wouldn't know about you? 

It surprises me every time someone doesn't know, but I have two older sisters and a younger brother.  Family is a pretty big deal to me so I like people knowing they're there haha.