Marlion Jackson had a smile that could light up the room Wednesday night.
And for good reason.
Flanked by family and a room full of friends, the recent Cherokee Bluff High graduate was making his lifelong dream come true, at the Team MVP McLendon Vision Performance facility in Oakwood.
With a stroke of the pen, Jackson locked in his future as a Division-I football player with Louisiana Tech.
It feels amazing,” said Jackson, who was busy celebrating with friends who assembled, both from his senior season at Cherokee Bluff and kids he knew from his first three years attending Mill Creek. “Everyone here, these are the people who helped me through my journey.”
Jackson’s story is one of being the comeback kid.
And every bit of success the 6-foot-4 wide receiver has attained, he had to earn it the hard way.
Struggling academically and dealing with family hardship, his mother Angela decided to move the family of five, including his two younger brothers Braylon and Christian, into the school’s district in Flowery Branch prior to the 2021 season.
His first three years at nearby Mill Creek, Jackson only received limited playing time. And grades became a mounting factor.
So the close-knit family time to go over the pros and cons of changing schools, plus going over the logistics of making the move that turned out to only be five miles in order to be eligible at Cherokee Bluff.
Then the hard work really began.
Jackson was forced to buckle down and focus on academics, as well as hone his craft in football. He aced his final semester of high school at Cherokee Bluff, making him eligible to graduate with his class on May 21.
“I think everybody loves the underdog story,” Marlion’s mother said. “You never want to think of your child as an underdog, but I’m so proud of him. He never gave up.”
At the same time, he was hard at work at the Team MVP facility, which is owned by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Steve McLendon, just off Interstate-985.
There, he met his trainer and father figure Drew Johnson, who gave a synopsis after Jackson’s signing of the ups and downs of getting him to this point in life in such a short period working together.
As far as football playing potential, Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones said Jackson has all the tools to be special on the outside.
As a senior, Jackson displayed his big-play potential with 636 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, including a 92-yard touchdown play in the first round of state against Greater Atlanta Christian.
“His ceiling for football is as high as you can imagine for as far as he can go,” Jones said.
After graduation, Jackson’s recruitment really opened up.
Louisiana Tech was the second of four Division-I offers that came in for the senior wide receiver. After an official visit, both Marlion and his mother felt confident that the school in Ruston, Louisiana was the ideal fit.
In addition to having tremendous upside as a football player, Jones said that Jackson’s work ethic will make his fast transition to Division-I football possible.
And Angela is most pleased to see her son making his dreams come true.
“I feel an overwhelming sense of relief that everything, all the chips fell into place the way he wanted them to,” his mother said. “All the pieces fell into place. I’m so proud and so relieved.”