PLANO, Texas -- Jackson Jeffcoat, the No. 2 prospect in the ESPNU 150, walked to a table on the Plano West basketball court decorated with his No. 42 helmet on one side and a wolf head on the other. With all-district, all-region and all-state patches covering seemingly every inch of his letter jacket, he sat down with a sense of relief on his face.
With his family -- father, Jim; mother, Tammy; and sisters Jacqueline and Jasmine -- surrounding him, Jackson Jeffcoat took in the moment. His announcement that he would play football (and basketball) for the University of Texas would come moments later. But the opportunity to enjoy the moment was too good to pass up -- and something his family worked hard to make sure would happen.
"Well, I kept it all under control," said Jim Jeffcoat, a former Dallas Cowboy and current assistant coach at the University of Houston. "I know how these things can go overboard and how things can get out of control. I just tried to make sure he wasn't stressed out. I wanted him to enjoy his senior year, and that was the main focus for me because in this process, I didn't get that opportunity to enjoy my senior year and I wanted to make sure he had that opportunity. I don't really take much into all this stuff because you are ultimately evaluated by what you do on the field, and that is more important to me and I know that is more important to him and I stressed that."
So Jackson was able to sit quietly and confidently at a table, with TV cameras, reporters, hundreds of students, friends and coaches watching as he picked the Longhorns over Oklahoma and Houston.
"I felt the most comfortable at Texas," he said after thanking his parents, sisters and brother, Jaren, who wasn't at the ceremony because he plays basketball at Norwich University in Vermont. "Not that I didn't feel comfortable everywhere else because they all are great. They all have great schools, but I just felt right at home at Texas."
In choosing Texas, Jeffcoat, a five-star defensive end, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Brian Orakpo, a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft, and senior Sergio Kindle, who is a likely first-round pick in April's NFL draft. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jeffcoat played in a 3-4 scheme for Plano West, often times lining up head-up on the tackle or an inside shade. At Texas he will get the opportunity to play more in space and rush the passer off the edge.
"Well, they have always told me I can play that 'Buck' position. They have had a lot of success with Brian Orakpo, who is in the Pro Bowl, and Sergio Kindle, who is projected to be a first-round pick. They have had a lot of success at that position," Jackson Jeffcoat said. "Here [at Plano West], we had more of a read-and-react system. At Texas, I'll be more out in space. We play a 3-4 here, and they run the 'Buck' position and I'll line up in more of a 4-3 but also get to drop in coverage and rush off the edge."
Plano West defensive coordinator David Knaus thinks Jeffcoat will make a quick scheme adjustment and excel in Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's scheme.
"As a player in the University of Texas' four-man front, he'll be outstanding. He's so skilled. He did a lot for us and we tried to get him on the outside as much as we could, but our situation dictated that he play a role on the inside for us and he did it so unselfishly," Knaus said. "I think he not only has the skills to be successful on the edge, but he is so knowledgeable and learns so well. For all of the knowledge his dad has given him, he's going to do great."
Jim Jeffcoat says he offered pros and cons for each school Jackson considered, but that was all he did. There was no extra recruiting or influencing done. In fact, just the opposite: Jim just wanted to make sure his son was as pressure-free as possible during the process and comfortable with his decision.
"No, it was all him. It was his decision," Jim said. "We run similar schemes [at Houston]. It was what he wanted to do. It was all about him. My wife and I gave pluses and minuses for each place, but it was all him."
Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at email@example.com.