Travis Jackson could have chosen to go any number of colleges, in the Big Ten, SEC, ACC or elsewhere. The offensive lineman from Columbus, Ohio, had a couple dozen offers from schools, many famous for cranking out linemen, programs such as Tennessee, Iowa and Wisconsin.
But Jackson pulled the trigger for Michigan State a couple weeks ago, in a flurry of commitments that included fellow Ohio O-lineman Michael Dennis.
"I realized that there's really something special going on there at Michigan State and I just wanted to be a part of that," Jackson said. "In the end, I just knew it was where I wanted to be "
Aside from the bit of prestige and respect the Spartans have earned over the last couple years, the decision for Jackson had as much to do with what he encountered on campus.
"I love Coach Dantonio, I love Coach Roushar," Jackson said of the head coach and offensive line coach, "and Coach Mike Tressel (Linebackers). Just talking to them, I really believed in what they were saying. I got to see their facilities, those are top notch."
The Spartan recruiting process was uplifting for Jackson, who talked to coaches about character, grades, performance and discipline. "They seemed very genuine," Jackson said. "They let me know where I stood the whole time. They were honest, it was very easy to deal with them."
For Jackson, it's a treat to play in the trenches.
"The offensive line is like no other position," he said. "You know you're going one hundred percent every play. I like being able to go every play and I like competing every play."
Jackson projects to the interior of the offensive line, a likely guard where opportunities to contribute should come sooner rather than latter with the depth and talent MSU is sure to have at center over the next few years. Anywhere along the front, though, Jackson says, is just fine.
One of the keys to recruiting linemen, who typically take longer to develop as they grow their bodies for the college game, is targeting a prospect who has outgrown the high school game, and much of the time dominates due to his sheer size, without sacrificing any of his ability to move like a wrestler.
"My coaches tell me I'm real athletic for my size," the 6-foot-4, 270 pound Jackson said.
The visceral thrill of engaging with the enemy, at its basest level, is what drives many into the arms of football. Jackson, as well, embraces the guts, grittiness and simple physicality of the game.
"Going one-on-one against another guy is so much fun," he says. "I love getting inside, and there's kind of a like a real bond when you play offensive line with the guys that you're playing with."