Class of 2020 Preview:  Elijah Jackson Thrives on Challenges, Competition

Mike Martin

Elijah Jackson, an incoming freshman cornerback from Carson, California, says he's at his best when he's challenged in every way.

That's why he picked the University of Washington. For the classroom and the football field.

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Jackson has worked hard at getting his mind and his body ready for what's next. He plans on taking classes for a pre-law major and upholding the reputation of excellence for the Huskies in the secondary.

"It's the fact that it's not just football, but it's education," Jackson said, citing the school's Built for Life program. "Once football is done, your education can provide you with many opportunities."

Considering the way he approaches the game coming out of Lawndale High School, he's already shown himself to be a smart guy.

From 8th through 10th grades, Jackson was a receiver and says that experience has helped him in many aspects of defending passes. He counters what others do.

"I'm able to get into the mind of a receiver and see what they're trying to get me to do," he said. "If a receiver is leaning you up a certain way, he wants to go the other way." 

Apart from understanding receiver tendencies, he said being a pass-catcher helped him read and track balls in the air. At Lawndale, Jackson played both offense and defense, recording as many interceptions as he did receiving touchdowns.

His love for the understanding of the game comes from Travis Clark, his Lawndale coach. Clark's offense had infusions of every offense that Jackson will see in the Pac-12 Conference.  

"We ran everything," Jackson said.  "He didn't want to stick to a certain style because he wanted us to be able to adapt to each team in our league. He wanted to get us acclimated to every style of football."

He began his high school enrollment at Narbonne High in Los Angeles. When his family decided to move, he went looking for a new school.  He still remembers his original visit to Lawndale and the impression it left on him. 

"When I met Coach Clark, I could tell that it was home," he recalled.  "He was passionate about football, he was passionate about helping kids.  It wasn't about stars, it wasn't about rankings, it wasn't about how much you knew.  It was about being ready to learn."

He comes to the UW accompanied by Lawndale teammate Makell Esteen, who was signed by the Huskies as a safety. The advantage of having teammates who were two-way players they've been able to work out together during the pandemic shutdown.

They've become close as teammates since Jackson transferred to Lawndale to begin his 11th-grade year. As teammates, they were close enough that when things didn't go as planned on the field they could give each other "the look" and know they had to hunker down and take the fight to the opponent.

They also take the fight to each other. Their situation is unique in that both of them alternated being Lawndale receivers and defenders. They know how to push each other.

"If he is out after practice doing extra gassers, it makes me want to do one more than him," Jackson said.  "We're just competing to lift each other up."

Jackson fielded 15 scholarship offers, seven from Pac-12 schools including UCLA, and one from an Ivy League school, Yale.  

The offer from Washington brought together his quest for knowledge on and off of the field. He said the UW putting a lot of DBs in the NFL and producing the highest-ever Academic Performance Review made it a dream school for him.

"I've always been a hard worker," he said, "but the offer from UW helped me see that the hard work wasn't going to waste."

With the scholarship in his pocket, Jackson continues to push himself hard to be ready for the next chapter.

"The hard work doesn't stop," he said. "It continues."