Piedmont’s talented duo takes next step
by Nick Birdsong
Star sports writer
Feb 03, 2011 | 6058 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PIEDMONT — The framed photographs that sat atop the tables inside the foyer in Piedmont’s gymnasium Wednesday afternoon showed all one needed to know about the athletic prowess of Mickey Jackson and Jamaal Johnson.

One showed Jackson, a behemoth of a defensive lineman, being bearhugged by a desperate offensive lineman as he rushed the passer.

The nimble 6-foot-1, 308-pounder barely looked phased.

Another showed Johnson, throwing down a mean two-handed dunk in a basketball game, making it look as easy as Sunday morning.

It’s that type of talent that made UAB and Jacksonville State, where Jackson and Johnson signed football scholarships at a National Signing Day ceremony, extend offers in the first place.

Jackson initially commited to the gamecocks after taking a visit to JSU with Johnson. However Jackson decommited a day later.

Coach Steve Smith said the talented tandem possesses the potential to not only hold their own but excel at the next level.

“If Mickey will accept coaching and play with great technique, he’ll play after UAB,” he said.

Of Johnson Smith said, “He’s as good of an athlete as I’ve ever coached and that’s in 17 years coaching.”

Both were first-team selections to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 3A all-state squad in both their junior and senior seasons as the Bulldogs went a combined 25-4, winning a state title in 2009 and reaching the semifinals this past season.

Jackson, also a state champion wrestler, registered 77 tackles, including 17 for loss and 12 sacks as the middleman in the Bulldogs’ 3-4 set. He held offers from Memphis, Houston, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss.

“When I hear coach say things like that about me, it just makes me want to play and work harder,” said Jackson whose birthday coincided with signing day.

Johnson recorded 90 tackles and five interceptions on defense while accumulating nearly 1,100 all-purpose yards and scoring 18 touchdowns despite limited touches on offense.

The 6-foot, 185-pounder, who was recently named the Offensive MVP at the Calhoun County basketball tournament, was dead set on Jacksonville State ever since he committed to the Gamecocks.

“It’s close to home and I just felt comfortable at JSU,” Johnson said. “I had just come from Louisiana Tech and I kind of liked them. But when I went to JSU, I kind of liked them a little more. So, I just stayed with it.”

Southern Miss., La. Tech and Memphis also offered the versatile Johnson.

He saw time at running back and wide receiver, the position he said he’ll begin with the Gamecocks.

As the quarterback of the Bulldogs’ defense, he called all the shots on the field, playing safety, cornerback and linebacker. That’s where Smith thinks he could ultimately wind up once he has his growth spurt.

“Two or three years from now there’s gong to be a lot of people saying, ‘How in the world did this kid end up at Jacksonville State’ when he’s 6-3, 230-pounds like I think he’s going to be. There’s going to be a lot of people saying, ‘How’d we let him get away.’”

Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.

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Piedmont’s talented duo takes next step by Nick Birdsong
Star sports writer

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