The Utes received commitment number sixteen recently when Sierra C.C. defensive end Perry Jackson verbally committed to coach J.D. Williams and crew. Jackson is the third defensive line commitment for the Utes in the 2010 class, and possesses the 4.6 speed and size needed to play in Utah's 4-3 base defense.
For Jackson and his recruitment, it all boiled down to the relationship he forged with his future coaches.
"I built a good relationship with coach Williams," said Jackson. "I know that at Sierra coach Tisdale was basically raising me in football, and told me it's all about competing. I know that going to Utah I will compete with the best."
I consider us good friends now. We've had some ups and downs already, and we made it through that and that's the start of a good relationship."
Jackson had big plans for his sophomore season at Sierra, but had to deal with the harsh realities of injury when he tore his ACL during the season opener.
"When I tore my ACL I thought Utah backed off of me," said Jackson.
The Utes stayed true to the speedy edge rusher from Sacramento however, and ultimately Jackson got what he wanted in his top choice.
"I look at it as a blessing, because I was going to come to Utah with two years to play, but now I'll go there with three to play. I'll go there as a sophomore instead of a junior so I look at the knee injury as a blessing in disguise."
Jackson is no stranger to tough times; in fact one could say Jackson is to adversity as football is to injuries.
As a freshman at Sierra, Jackson started his first seven games, recording 70 tackles and 2 sacks before he lost his starting spot.
"As a freshman I was worried about things I couldn't control, like things with my family and I put that in my football life."
Jackson's mother had fallen on tough times, having spent some time in jail during his freshman season, affecting his ability to focus on football.
"My mom wasn't doing well, she was in jail and my dad lost his job," said Jackson. Jackson's mom resorted to shoplifting to pay for food and rent, costing her a year in the county jail.
The second oldest of 21 children from one mother, Jackson had to grow up quickly, missing out on most of elementary school being a father to his younger siblings. By the age of 11, Jackson was disillusioned with the responsibility of caring for a family while his parents were serving prison sentences, and consequently wound up on the streets living on his own.
"I called a foster mom finally when I was twelve and asked to live with them," said Jackson. At the age of twelve, Jackson had already been through more than most 20 year olds, and was sorely in need of a loving family.
Once his family life stabilized some what, getting his life back in order was the only focus, and through his new found faith in God and the game of football, Jackson excelled.
To catch up from missing half of his elementary education, Jackson went to live with his aunt in Shreveport Louisiana, and within a year had progressed enough to graduate the 6th grade. Jackson however, was just getting warmed up.
With his new found drive to succeed, Jackson returned to California, where he bounced around to junior high schools in the Sacramento area, ultimately landing at Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove (Calif.) where he would make his mark.
In high school Jackson excelled on and off the field, battling through past adversities and on going family problems to graduate with a 3.75 core GPA.
"I don't consider myself smart or a genius," he said when asked about his intelligence. "I just do my work. If I have a hard class I just struggle through it and figure out a way to get it done."
I've lived on the streets, and now I feel like I have a second chance at life. I've seen a lot, and I got a second chance at life and have always known what I wanted to be. I just wanted to become somebody, whatever that means, I just wanted to become somebody that I can be proud of."
Jackson had a scholarship offer out of high school to play football for Nevada, but was missing some core credits that he couldn't make up due to some special education classes in high school. Continuing on to college was the natural next step for Jackson, and Sierra Community College was his destination.
As a college student now, Jackson is becoming the man he wants to be, and the chance to play for a nationally ranked program is the culmination of a lifetime of sacrifice and hard work.
For Jackson, it's like being reborn. "It gives me a chance to be recognized," he said. "And to me it means that the world is going to get a chance to know Perry Jackson. I've been through a lot, but I feel like I've been through (it) in the dark. I think that Utah has a chance to see that guy, and I think that playing for a guy like coach (John) Pease is a chance to do something special."
I've been close to death before, and I feel like I can overcome anything. Anything I put my mind to I can do it. I told them when I come to Utah I'm starting."
With a 3.24 average now in junior college, Jackson will complete his Associates in December, and enroll at Utah in January 2010.
For Jackson, the next step is a college degree and chance to play in the NFL. With his determination and drive, the only thing standing in his way is himself.