Football, Basketball, Baseball
Favorite athlete: Amari Cooper/Jalen Ramsey
Favorite team: New York Giants
Favorite memory competing in sports: Having 350 all-purpose yards in one game
Most embarrassing thing that has happened while competing in sports: Getting burned and letting up a touchdown
Music on Playlist: Hip Hop/Rap
Future plans: Play college football
Words to live by: “Stick to the plan; you knew it wouldn’t be easy”
One goal before turning 30: Coaching the younger generations
One thing people don’t know about me: I love to play video games
By GORDON GLANTZ
Before the start of the current football season, there was a sit down. That’s when Truman’s Makai Jackson stood up.
Primarily a defensive back up until that point, it was mutually agreed that that the senior was too electric to keep off the field on offense.
“I played defense all the way to this year,” said Jackson. “It was me saying something, and the coaches trusting me. I just wanted to help the team out any way I could.”
The results thus far have exceeded all expectations, as Jackson – also a returner – rarely comes off the field.
Jackson has had surrealistic games, like exceeding 350 all-purpose yards against rival Pennsbury, and now draws double- and triple-teams from opponents to open up chances for his teammates.
“He’s a three-year starter for us” said Truman coach Ben Johnson. “The first two years, it was more defense and special teams. I sat down and talked with him, and he said, ‘Coach, I’ll do whatever it is you want me to do. I just want to win.’ We found out that he was way more talented than we initially thought three years ago. He has done phenomenal for us.
“You could see it growing as he matured. The sky is the limit for him. Every year, he has just gotten better – stronger, faster, smarter. We saw, coming into the season, how well-rounded and we could absolutely use him on offense. I felt he could be a weapon, but not a weapon where other teams would be double- and triple-teaming him. He is a very high character, respectful and a joy to coach. He plays offense, starting safety/cornerback and special teams. Very rarely, does he come off the field.”
The result of the wildly successfully role expansion is that it has also opened the eyes of collegiate programs, such as Lafayette and St. Francis, as Jackson now hopes to follow the trail blazed by his brother, Maurice Jackson, Jr. (now the defensive line coach at Truman) as a collegiate football player.
“He is laser-focused and enjoying the recruiting process, while finding out how tedious that process is,” said Johnson. “Ultimately, he’ll make his decision down the road. He is still waiting for that first official offer, but there are schools out there interested. He fits the bill. This kid, unequivocally, checks off all the boxes for any coach for any college program – DI, DII, DIII, NAIA, JUCO. This kid can just walk onto a field and play.”
Three for Three
Jackson (6-0, 185, 4.5 40) is also a combo guard on the basketball team and the center fielder on the baseball team.
Truman basketball coach Tyrone Lewis – who had a prolific collegiate basketball career at Niagara – is himself a Truman grad who is the all-time leading scorer in Lower Bucks County history.
Ask him about Jackson, and the Tigers’ coach is effusive in his praise.
“Makai is a coach’s dream,” Lewis said. “For me personally as his varsity basketball coach the past three years, he has been what you want your star athlete to be.
“He’s selfless, loyal and a very hard worker. If you watch him on the field and basketball court, you see it. I am very proud of Makai. Him growing up on the same exact street as I did makes it even more special.”
Listening to Truman baseball coach Tim Monaghan talk about his center fielder, it’s pretty clear Jackson could have a future at the next level in baseball as well.
“He would have been a four-year guy if not for COVID,” Monaghan said. “He was our center fielder last year and he led off every single game. He’s about as good a center fielder as there is, and I think his skill set translates because he plays free safety for football, and it’s the same skills to play both positions.”
Monaghan acknowledged that Jackson is a young man of few words.
“He leads by example by the way he approaches school, by the way he approaches working hard in practice and doing things the right way,” the Tigers’ coach said. “He’s a great example – it’s not easy to play three sports and play them at a high level, and Makai’s able to do that and make it look like it’s easy for him even though it’s a very difficult thing to do, and he does it with a smile on his face.”
Monaghan points to Jackson’s willingness to play both baseball and football last spring as a testament to his commitment.
“Truman didn’t play football in the fall – we played in spring, so his seasons overlapped,” Monaghan said. “He was going to football practice and baseball practice and competing in football games and playing center field for us.
“You could tell he was exhausted. Playing football is so difficult physically and then to come to baseball practice and not miss a beat – it speaks a lot to his character, his commitment. He doesn’t want to let anyone down. He always wants to be there for everybody.”
Monaghan worked with Johnson to create his schedule around the football schedule so there wouldn’t be a game conflict.
“Coach Johnson and I worked very well together to make sure he had every opportunity,” Monaghan said. “There were a couple other guys, and we were trying to make it possible and not pull them in one direction or the other and give them an opportunity to do both. It worked out.”
A large reason Jackson fits the bill for the next level is because he takes care of business in the classroom and boast a GPA in the very respectable neighborhood of 3.67.
That came from his mother, LaShanda Jackson, and was reinforced by his older siblings (Kani, his sister and the oldest, and Maurice, who went on to play at Richmond and has since had a workout in the CFL).
“My mom has always been on top of me with my grades,” said Jackson. “It’s school first, then sports. If I want to get where I want to be and play college football, then I have to stick to it in the classroom.”
Added Johnson: “He comes from great stock. His mother is very supportive. She works within the district. She has done a great job raising a great young man. That sometimes gets lost in transition. First and foremost, he is an outstanding young man. He’s respectful and a joy to be around. When things aren’t going well, he’s always the one there to pick the team up.”
Having an older brother not only on the coaching staff, but in the same household, has been a bonus as well.
“I heard it a lot from my brother (about the academics),” said Jackson, who thinks he may be interested in physical therapy. “I know I have to keep on working to get where I want to be. It helps a lot, with him being there. We talk football sometimes, actually a lot of the time, but we also talk about the other things that brothers do.”
Jackson thanked all of teammates, friends and coaches. But one person tops the list: His mom.
“Thank you,” he said. “I love you. I just want to keep on making you proud.”
Johnson, who has seen players come and go in his nearly two decades of wearing a whistle, said there is something about Makai Johnson that will not be easily be forgotten.
And it’s more than just him doing impersonations of the coach or being a leader by example who knows when to be vocal.
In a season where the team is off to a 2-5 start by virtue of self-inflicted wounds – after reaching the finals of a truncated spring season for teams that hadn’t played in the fall – Jackson brings the kind of electricity that sheds light on the larger picture.
“His instincts, football acumen, his work ethic; it’s second to none. It’s something that I wish we could take from him and transplant it into all the kids,” said the coach. “He is definitely one of the top five kids that I have ever coached. I hate to compare kids, but Makai is definitely right up there.”
“Makia is a great example for other students at Truman to follow,” Monaghan said. “He embodies what it is to be a Tiger. I think his future is very bright, and hopefully, he’ll have opportunities in more than one sport to play at the college level if he wants them. It will be up to him what he wants to pursue.
“I believe football is his passion. Whatever he’s going to do, he’s going to be great at it because he works hard, he puts his heart and soul into it. He’s just a pleasure to coach, to teach, to be around. I can’t say enough great things about the guy.”
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