C.J. Jackson got plenty of recruiting attention over the past few seasons as quarterback at North Side, but almost every program that came to scout him had the same question.
He is a great athlete, but can he play defensive back?
The one program that saw a collegiate quarterback in the 6-foot-1 athlete that amassed over 2,500 yards of total offense in his senior season was the University of Saint Francis.
“(Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley) told me, 'I can get him to play quarterback in our offense,'” North Side coach Ryan Hall said. “From what they told me, he is the only quarterback they recruited this year.”
Jackson is one of 24 prep athletes that signed Letters of Intent on Wednesday to play for the Cougars next season, including 22 from Indiana. Of those, 11 played in programs located in Northeast Indiana, continuing a pipeline that Donley has developed over the years at Saint Francis.
“I knew that once a college got going in Fort Wayne that played football, it would be a hotbed for local talent,” Hall said. “It is so fun to go and watch games, look at the roster and remember kids you coached or played against, even if it has been a few years.”
Jackson will be joined by North Side teammate Taron Graham as members of the Cougars.
South Side also had a pair of signees to the program in wide receiver Yeshwa Moore and tight end/defensive end Thomas Nolan. Moore notched 86 tackles and six interceptions during his senior season with the Archers.
Also sending a pair of players to the Cougars is Homestead, with wide receiver Seth Coate and kicker Nolan McMahon signing. Coate finished 2012 with 563 yards and seven touchdowns through the air. McMahon, considered one of the top kickers in the area, holds the school and NHC record for longest field goal made, a 56-yarder in 2011.
Kicker/punter Josh Spitnale from Snider will continue his career with Saint Francis. The News-Sentinel All-Area Team member hit eight field goals and 53 PATs in his senior season.
Bruising running back Jason Nicodemus will take his 2,252 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns to the Cougars next season.
Defensive back Elliott Nelson out of New Haven also signed with Saint Francis after amassing 32 tackles, six tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions in his senior season for Coach Jim Rowland's Bulldogs.
Also representing the NHC will be Carroll's Tyler Zaegel, the top offensive lineman for a Chargers' team that won sectional and regional crowns a season ago.
Angola will also send a player to the Cougars in offensive lineman Caleb Brown.
Donley expects the recruiting class to expand in the coming weeks as more players elect to join the Cougars for next season.
The University of Saint Francis class of 2013 football recruiting class includes:
Caleb Brown OL 6-4 305 Angola, IN/Angola
Kevin Brown LB 5-11 200 Indianapolis, IN/Pike
Seth Coate WR 6-3 180 Fort Wayne, IN/Homestead
Skyler Coleman OL 6-4 265 Richmond, IN/Richmond
Joe Doyle OL 6-6 270 Indianapolis, IN/Bishop Chatard
Ian Drobac LB 6-2 220 Hobart, IN/Hobart
Jaylen Gamble OL 6-4 260 Indianapolis, IN/North Central
Taron Graham WR 5-9 172 Fort Wayne, IN/North Side
Aaron Harris RB 5-10 195 Whiteland, IN/Whiteland Community
Tyice Howard-Smith DB 5-10 170 Indianapolis, IN/Pike
Andrew Hunt LB 6-1 220 Lexington, OH/Lexington
C.J. Jackson QB 6-1 170 Fort Wayne, IN/North Side
Christian Johnson DE 6-2 238 Indianapolis, IN/Scecina
Nolan McMahon K 6-3 245 Fort Wayne, IN/Homestead
Zach Minardo OL 6-4 280 Mooresville, IN/Mooresville
Yeshwa Moore WR 6-1 185 Fort Wayne, IN/South Side
John Naumcheff WR 6-3 190 Zionsville, IN/Zionsville
Elliott Nelson DB 6-3 190 New Haven, IN/New Haven
Thomas Nolan TE/DE 6-4 240 Fort Wayne, IN/South Side
Jason Nicodemus RB 5-9 200 Churubusco, IN/Churubusco
Josh Spitnale P/K 6-6 220 Fort Wayne, IN/Snider
Drake Thompson LB 6-0 220 Englewood, OH/Northmont
Jalen White DB 5-9 175 South Bend, IN/South Bend Adams
Tyler Zaegel OL 6-3 260 Fort Wayne, IN/Carroll