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North Hall grad Daniel Jackson embracing opportunity to play football for Georgia Bulldogs
Former Trojans standout was a force on both sides of the ball in high school
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North Hall's Daniel Jackson goes for the catch while White County's Karson Crowe, left, and Kurtis Havlen, right, keep the pass away from Jackson at White County High School on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

It only took one hit at a University of Georgia football practice for North Hall grad Daniel Jackson to figure out how much different SEC-level football is than high school. 

Jackson — who walked on as a safety this season with the Bulldogs — was lined up against freshman wide receiver George Pickens in a 1-on-1 drill early in summer camp, and when the two young players “thudded up,” Jackson could feel the words Georgia coaches began preaching to him as soon as he joined the team. 

“They say it every day, you’re playing against the best of the best,” Jackson said. “And you definitely are.” 

Jackson’s time with the Bulldogs has been a dream come true for the former Trojans star who contributed electric plays both on the football field and on the basketball court with North Hall. He grew up a Georgia fan, and joining the players he was used to watching on TV on Saturday’s was a surreal experience. 

And while many advise against meeting your heroes, Jackson has had nothing but positive interactions with his new coaches and teammates. 

“Everybody I’ve met has just been really supportive and helped me out a lot so far,” he said. “It’s been really cool.”

Jackson’s journey to the Bulldogs roster came via a relatively unconventional route. 

Though he lit up the scoreboard at Lynn Cottrell Field regularly on Friday nights in high school, dazzling North Hall fans with a combination of speed and tenacity, Jackson did not receive a scholarship offer from Georgia — his top choice coming out of high school. 

Instead of opting for a smaller school and attempting a transfer to Athens, Jackson and North Hall coach David Bishop contacted Bulldogs defensive backs coach Charlton Warren. Georgia’s depth at running back would have made it difficult for Jackson to make the team on offense, but his athleticism intrigued Warren, who told Jackson the Bulldogs would likely have a safety spot available for him.

“It was more of like a preferred walk-on type deal than actually walking on for me,” Jackson said.

Though Jackson knew he was more likely to make the team than many of his fellow walk-on hopefuls, hard work became his calling card from the moment he arrived in Athens. 

Practice was difficult, yet rewarding, as Jackson felt himself growing as a player throughout summer and fall camp. It was a period of adjustment for Jackson, who had to get used to both a new practice regiment and a revamped diet.

Though the latter was much easier to handle than the former.

“I would say the amount of food that we eat on a daily basis was something that surprised me,” Jackson said. “It was usually about four to five meals a day. It was definitely the best part of fall camp.”

The start of the school year has brought even more challenge for Jackson, but as the college football season gets underway, the time he’s spent working and improving is starting to pay dividends. Jackson didn’t travel with the team to Nashville for Georgia’s Week 1 win over Vanderbilt, but the contributions he’s made to the team on the practice field have been rewarding for the young defensive back all the same. 

As the season moves along, he hopes to make his impact felt more and more.

“It’s definitely taken some time to become used to the college football routine, especially here because of the standard here,” Jackson said. “It’s taken time, but I’m starting to feel more comfortable with everything.”

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