Notre Dame hosted several top junior prospects for the USC game last weekend. Kelvin Jackson (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) was one of the prospects in attendance, but it certainly wasn't his first visit to Notre Dame.
"I've been going to their camp since I was a freshman," Jackson replied when asked if he had been to Notre Dame in the past. "I've always wanted to go there, and they sent me an invite to go to the USC game, so I went. I talked to coach Haywood and the other coaches and hung out with them over the weekend.
"After my freshman year I wanted to go out to different camps to try to get my name out there. The Notre Dame camp is one of the camps that I really wanted to go to, and when I went up there and fell in love with the campus, the whole atmosphere, the football program… really everything about Notre Dame I just fell in love with. I love the tradition, the history and the background. I also like their academic program and their law school. Ever since that I've been going to their camps and going up there for games."
Having spent several camps working with the Notre Dame coaching staff, Kelvin has become very comfortable with several of the Notre Dame coaches, although it didn't take long for him to get comfortable with the Irish offensive coordinator, Michael Haywood.
"They interact with the players really well," Jackson said of the Notre Dame coaches. "The offensive line, coach Latina, and their defensive line coach, coach Oliver have talked to me and they really like me on both sides of the ball. I came back this summer and I had matured a little. I've gotten a little taller and stronger and we talked about having me play linebacker for them.
"They just started sending me recruiting stuff this year, because I know a couple of the coaches personally. I'm related to coach Haywood. His mom is my aunt. It was interesting when we first talked about the school. He told me what I had to do to get in to the school, outside of football. We talked about how Notre Dame accepts kids. Before we even talked about football, we talked about SAT scores, and being a good kid. We talked about being in extracurricular activities other than football, like student council. We talked about how different clubs would give me an edge in getting into the school and taking college and AP classes now would help me. Like in football you have to work out more to give yourself an edge, in classroom you have to do more to give yourself that edge. That's what he's stressed and my parents have stressed that and so that's what I'm doing.
Although the Irish didn't win last weekend, Jackson isn't concerned with the future of the program.
"I think the players are just a little young, after this season they'll be fine. I want to wear their colors, good or bad," Jackson said. "Allen Pinkett, told me not to let what's going on discourage me. He said that when he was s a senior they went 5-6. He said that the alumni program and the academics mean more than football and it goes beyond football. Once you graduate, the graduate programs are great. I'm looking at the future right now. I'm looking at college and when I'm in college I'm going to be looking at life after college. They really convinced me that it'll all pay off."
Notre Dame isn't the only school that is interested in Jackson. If the Irish don't offer him a scholarship he'll likely have plenty of options.
"Alabama, Wake Forest, UCLA, and Kansas State are the core group of colleges that have been sending me the most stuff," Jackson said. "There have been others that have sent me questionnaires, but those are the main schools sending me mail."
"I think schools like my size. When I was a little bit bigger, I was really quick for a guy my size, especially for an offensive lineman. I was quick on the defensive side, and offensive lineman couldn't touch me. I recently slimmed up and my quickness is there, and my strength is still there and they've helped me out. I think my feet, my strength, my intelligence, and my technique are what colleges like.
"Schools have mostly talked about me playing defensive end and being on the defensive side of the ball," Jackson explained. "Last year I played offensive line. I don't think my coach expected me to come back looking like this (slimmed down), but we still needed help on the offensive line, so that's the role that I'm playing. I'm going to be a team player. It isn't all about Kelvin. I want to win a state championship and I'll do whatever I need to do to help my teammates.
"If you saw me you wouldn't think I was an offensive lineman, you'd say, ‘No way.' When I go to camps, I go to the defensive side of the ball and mess around with the tight ends. I prefer the defensive side of the ball because I like to hit and I like to make big plays. I talked to my defensive coach and he said he might have to move me to the defensive side of the ball next year."
Although Jackson isn't playing the position that he'd like to play, he not only understands that it is best for the team, but he also believes it will help him in the future if he does play on the defensive side of the ball.
"If I play defense, especially if I play linebacker, I'll know just what the offensive linemen are trying to do when they pull," Jackson said. "I know where they're going to set up, what angles they want to take, where they want to take them, how fast they want to move. I'll be able to use that and I think it'll make me a better player."