Q&A: Four-star Defensive End Kenyatta Jackson Jr.'s Father Says “More Mature Atmosphere” Led to Son’s Ohio State Commitment

By Garrick Hodge on October 27, 2021 at 10:10 am
Kenyatta Jackson Jr.

By now, most of you know Ohio State landed its first defensive line commitment of the 2022 recruiting class last week.

Kenyatta Jackson Jr. became the 15th player to give a verbal to Ohio State in the 2022 cycle when he decided to play for Ohio State over Oklahoma, which had been a 50-50 decision dating back to July. 

Jackson Jr.'s father, Kenyatta Jackson Sr., took some time this week to share some insight on his son's decision to play for the Buckeyes. Topics ranged from the decision itself to Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson to Jackson’s enrollment plans. 

This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.

Q: All the times we've talked, you told me the choice was going to be a business decision. So, what made coming to Ohio State the correct business decision for your son? 

Kenyatta Jackson Sr.: "Well, we sat down and talked a week prior to him making a decision. We feel that Ohio State is a more mature atmosphere, even the coaches. These are more older and mature classy guys who can get the job done on and off the field. They can make him a great man as he proceeds with life after football. Not saying that Oklahoma or Alabama can't do it, we just were more comfortable as parents letting him decide on Ohio State, even though he picked the school himself. We broke it down to the lowest common denominator. We just went from there. We feel happy and elated that he made an adult decision even though he had the help of both of his parents. We just felt like Ohio State was the best choice for him."  

Q: When we last talked, you said you wanted to attend a game at Oklahoma before he made a decision. Obviously, that didn't happen. So, what made you comfortable enough to decide on Ohio State without going to see Oklahoma again?  

Jackson: "There were some things that came across as far as me. I fell under the weather a little bit. As the date was approaching, things just didn't work out according to my plan. I did let coach Lincoln Riley and (Oklahoma defensive ends) coach Jamar Cain know ahead of time that things are just not going to happen as far as us visiting on an official gameday because of me falling under the weather. I'm still under the weather to this day. My son was OK with (committing anyway), even though he still wanted a chance to go back to Oklahoma. But things just didn't work out." 

Q: Any plans to get to Ohio State for a game day visit sometime this fall? 

Jackson: "Yes. We're planning it right now. We thought we were going to be able to come to this weekend's game, but it's not looking good. But they do have two more home games, so we're planning for that also. We'll see what happens." 

Q: He's the first defensive lineman to commit to Ohio State in this class. Is there anything special about being the first one in that position group to commit?

Jackson: "Eh, not really. It's just the relationship that he built with coach Larry Johnson and coach Ryan Day. Even us coming along as parents, we love coach Larry Johnson. He's a man with integrity and has a lot of character. His background speaks for itself ever since he was at Penn State. It built from there. The guys he put in the NFL the last three to four years, that's legendary. He's good at what he does, and he has the tools to get the guys going where they need to be at a certain time."

Q: Like you just mentioned, Larry Johnson's track record speaks for itself. How awesome is it for you as a family knowing your son is going to be developed by Johnson this fall? 

Jackson: "We have good intentions on coach Larry Johnson. We're not overwhelmed by it because like you said the track record speaks for itself. It's all on Kenyatta Jr. to go in and do what he needs to do. Everything else is going to fall into place. It ain't coach Larry Johnson out there, it's going to be Kenyatta Jr. He's going to be at the school, now he's going to have to set his priorities. Once he takes care of that, the sky is the limit. We wish him the best through his college career and life and walking with integrity. The only thing we can do is watch his growth and see where he prospers." 

Q: Some guys prefer to be an early enrollee to be ready for spring football and get a leg up. Will that be your guys' path or will Kenyatta wait to enroll until next fall? 

Jackson: "He'll wait until next fall. There's no rush here."

Q: Just watching this current team, some true freshmen like Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau are getting on the field right away. Did that factor into his decision whatsoever that if you're ready, you're going to play right away at Ohio State? 

Jackson: "No, not at all. I told him once you get there, you start all over again. You're going to a college and you're going to start all over. Right now, your name is big, but until you put the work in at practice, you're a nobody trying to gain your stripes. Now, I've always told him that since he was in little league and youth football. Earn your stripes, don't let anybody give you anything. That's where we stand and that's where we're going to continue to. There's no shortcut, only thing you can do is go through, ain't no way around it. I told him there's cameras everywhere, just go do what you got to do. Everything will fall into place. But as far as playing right away, that wasn't always the idea. The idea was keep up with your academics, hit the weight room, keep your grades up and always be ready at all times. Whenever coach Larry Johnson calls you, go represent. We know that he can play, we know that. But does he know that he can play on that level? That's what a lot of parents don't teach their kids." 

Q: Watching the commitment announcement, it seems like he has high ambitions for his life after football. Can you elaborate on what his academic plans are for college?

Jackson: "From the conversations we've had, he wants to do something with orthopedics and go into the medical field with sports medicine. I brought it to his attention that since you're playing the sport, you should look into things like that. It's going to be fun to find out. You know, kids tend to change their mind time after time. So, we'll see what happens."    

Q: Your son has been a highly touted recruit for a long time. But for an Ohio State fan that's maybe just hearing about him for the first time, what would you tell them about what kind of player Ohio State is getting and what kind of person they're getting next fall? 

Jackson: "Well, all parents want the best for their kids. But I'm only going to speak for my son as a parent. They're going to get a great kid, number one. As far as football, they're going to get a kid who has a IQ that's very high for the position. He can run a defense himself from the defensive end position. He can get a coach to change defensive alignments. He's a phenomenal kid and a phenomenal player. Everything else, he's a kid who's trying to find himself and do good by his parents and himself." 

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