RICHMOND — With a simple touchdown catch against Fort Bend Travis on Sept. 8, Cody Jackson formally welcomed himself to varsity football.
Well, simple for Foster High’s 6-foot-1, 175-pound sophomore receiver. Tough for almost anyone else.
“I made one move, went up the sideline and caught a touchdown,” Jackson recalled of the 67-yard score with 36 seconds left in the first quarter of a 52-38 Foster win. “I got off the line, jabbed right and released left. The dude stumbled. I was like, ‘This might be real. This is how it’s going to be the next couple of years.’”
Oklahoma thinks so. Coach Lincoln Riley and Co. offered Jackson a full-ride scholarship on Nov. 25.
“That was exciting. That was one of my top schools,” said Jackson, who has a total of five offers, including Houston, Baylor, Texas State and Tulsa. “I’m looking to see what other recruits schools have coming in and how the coaches are.”
Jackson began his high school career as a quarterback for Foster’s freshman team last year. Falcons coach Shaun McDowell said Jackson was a “man amongst boys” and scored on the first play of games six times.
It was during the summer leading into fall preseason camp, however, that Jackson made a position switch. With junior Ryan Stubblefield emerging as a star at quarterback, Jackson suggested to McDowell that he move to receiver.
“Throughout the fall camp, we worked Cody at quarterback, but for us to get our best 11 players on the field, with Ryan being the dynamic quarterback that he is … Cody, being unselfish, said, ‘I don’t have a problem moving to wide receiver,’” McDowell said. “And look at where he’s at right now.”
It was an easy call for Jackson, who can play almost any position on the field.
“When I was younger, I always wanted to play receiver,” Jackson said. “I like using my speed. I’m really fast. But they needed me as quarterback my freshman year. This year, we had a good quarterback and I was going to play behind him, but I went up to Coach, asked if I could move to receiver to help this team out.”
It certainly has. Jackson has caught 49 passes this season for 769 yards and nine touchdowns in helping lead 9-4 Foster to the Class 5A regional finals for the third straight year. During last week’s regional semifinal win over a dominant Hutto team, Jackson caught four passes for 99 yards and two scores.
Jackson, who also plays defensive back for Foster, hones his speed during the offseason competing for the Falcons’ 4x100, 4x200 and 200-meter running events in track and field. He joins a long list of prominent Falcons who once starred as sophomores, including Ceedee Lamb, Jacob Brammer and current junior defensive lineman Chidozie Nwankwo.
“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” McDowell said of Jackson. “He’s very lean. He has elite speed. He’s also got an elite intelligence. He works. All the tools you want in an athlete, you have in Cody.
“He’s a great kid, makes great grades and you never hear anything negative said about him off the field.”
Worse news for opponents is that this season has been one big learning curve for Jackson. He’s not yet entirely comfortable in his new position.
Moving from quarterback to receiver, Jackson said, “was tough and an adjustment.”
He had to learn a whole new playbook. He had to learn routes. He had to learn how to block, and once he did that he had to learn how blocking schemes. McDowell said his star receiver is still perfecting route-running and understanding where to be and how to get there.
“Everything was different,” Jackson said.
It’s a testament to Jackson’s skill and football savvy that he’s already enjoyed as much success as he has. The numbers and a rapidly-growing profile are proof.
“It's like he was meant to be here,”McDowell said, “and we're pretty excited about him."