Jackson wins combine

Published 12:17 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2009

GULF SHORES – Demopolis High junior Martaze Jackson spent March 7-8 in Gulf Shores, where he walked away as the overall winner of the National Underclassmen Combine.

“It was shocking, real shocking” Jackson said of the win. “It’s like you expect it, but at the same time, you don’t. I had determined I was going to be the best out there.”

Jackson said he reached that determination while training for the event.

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“I don’t think anybody is training like we are,” the defensive end said of his Tiger teammates. “Our team is really focusing on that (state championship) ring. We came close last year. We’re really focusing on it.”

Jackson said his focus in the offseason has been on improving and referred to combines such as the Gulf Shores event as a medium for accomplishing that.

“You learn a lot of things there. You learn how to stay disciplined,” Jackson said. “You meet a lot of folks from all over. But the best part is that you get to compete with everybody.”

Jackson turned in a 4.56-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.5 in the shuttle at the combine. The junior also leaped 35.6 inches in the vertical leap and 10 feet in the standing long jump. The only knock on the lineman was his bench press performance. While Jackson cranked out 27 reps at 185-pounds, combine officials counted only 14 of the lifts, citing his failure to lock out 13 of the presses as the reason for the penalty.

“He enjoys competing,” Demopolis head football coach Tom Causey said. “His work ethic is No. 1. Every time Martaze comes to the weight room or practice, he comes with the intention of getting better at something.”

Defensive coordinator Rudy Griffin said that it is Jackson’s work ethic that separates him from his counterparts.

“Taze is a football player that brings intensity, whether he’s on the football field or he’s in the weight room,” Griffin said. “That’s one thing that you can’t teach. You either have it or you don’t have it. That is something that is really helping him now going to all these combines is his work ethic. When a scout comes to watch him, he’s going to see a guy with great intensity. He runs to the football. He fights through blocks.”

Causey said Jackson’s drive is always evident but explained that the pass rusher’s motives are anything but selfish.

“He wants to be the best at his position, but he wants to be the best at his position to win a 5A state championship,” Causey said. “You’re going to have to have your lunch packed if you’re playing against him. You’re not going to just show up and whip him. It’s going to be a long day.”

Jackson explained that his already high motor received a boost in late November when his team came within one play of knocking off Carver to move to the state semi-finals.

“When we’re dog tired and ready to give up, it pops up in our head,” Jackson said. “Everybody thinks about that one play and works even harder.”

Jackson’s combination of talent and work ethic has already garnered a great deal of attention from college recruiters.

“I think his chances are very, very high,” Griffin, a former University of Alabama defensive lineman, said of the prospect of Jackson playing Division I football. “I played with a lot of great football players and Taze fits the mold of an SEC football player. It’s just up to Taze where he wants to go and it’s up to him whether he gets out there on Friday nights and plays.”

Causey agreed that the defensive stalwart has D-1 potential.

“It’s going to have to be somebody who is willing to be a little bit patient with him. His lack of size at the Division I level, he’ll make up for with his speed and his hand placement,” Causey said. “There’s a home out there for him. He’s got the athletic ability and the work ethic to play at the Division I level.”

Jackson has heard all of the chatter about his potential and has yet to turn a deaf ear to recruiting pitches.

“I’m listening to it. The education means the most to me really. I’m going to enjoy football anywhere I’m playing. But I’m focusing on the environment and the education because I’d like to have a life after football,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of schools out there. But I’m more worried about what’s in front of me right now. I’m working on school and worried about our team.”

“Everybody is improving this year. I have a really good feeling about this year. Right now it’s the championship ring. If you do well in school, Division I schools are going to come. So we’ve got to work on one thing: The state championship ring.”

Causey said Jackson and teammates Damarcus James, Anthony Hardy, Michael Davis and Steven Foster have received invites to attend Rivals first Alabama combine on May 3.