Jackson Carver decided to play football for the first time in his life last fall, a new activity in his senior year of high school.
It went well.
So good, in fact, that the Woodbury teenager now holds football scholarship offers from more than 30 Division I schools with a visit to the Alabama powerhouse scheduled for this week that could result in another offer at add to his list.
It doesn’t seem plausible, or possible, not even in the wacky world of recruiting, that college football programs are lining up to sign a kid who’s only played one season of organized football and doesn’t even know how. put properly on football mats this time a year ago.
Its list of scholarship offers already includes Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Miami, LSU, Auburn, Florida State, and Michigan State. He also had conversations with coaches at Clemson and Ohio State.
Carver, a tight end, seems unfazed by his meteoric rise in a sport he was familiar with shortly before last summer.
“I’ve never been one to doubt myself,” he said.
Carver’s father, Jim, worked as a strength coach for the Kansas City Chiefs under Marty Schottenheimer in the late 1990s, but none of Jim’s three sons played football beyond fourth grade.
Jackson, the middle child, focused on hockey and lacrosse. He became a star in both sports while attending St. Thomas Academy. His schedule with the Minnesota Blades hockey program overlapped with the football season, so he never had the opportunity to try the sport.
“In hockey, you have two seconds after they get rid of the puck to complete your check. I thought it was the same rule for football. The [offensive] the line was not very happy with me.
Lacrosse won the tussle in his heart, and Carver committed to playing college lacrosse at Notre Dame. He left St. Thomas Academy in the middle of his freshman year to enroll in Culver Academya military boarding school in Indiana that offers an elite preparatory lacrosse program.
He played his junior season in Culver, which is 40 miles south of Notre Dame campus in South Bend. Carver knew he wouldn’t be playing hockey again in the fall, so he asked Culver football coach Andy Dorrel if he could join the team for the 2021 season.
Dorrel saw Carver’s body — 6-foot-6, 220 pounds — and imagined a commanding presence at the tight end. Dorrel sent Carver home for the summer with a Jugs machine to work on pass-catching.
Carver’s father bought 10 footballs and installed the Jugs machine in the basement of their Woodbury home. Carver’s younger brother, Hunter, sent balls into the machine as Carver caught 200 passes a day, one after the other, at rapid fire.
Carver often positioned his phone to take videos. He made a video of himself doing one-handed grabs with each hand and sent it to Dorrel, who was so impressed he sent it to the Notre Dame head coach. Brian Kelly at the time, as well as assistant coaches at several other schools, including Indiana.
Indiana tight ends coach Kevin White contacted Carver almost immediately. Coaches at other schools began requesting Carver’s lacrosse video to assess his athleticism.
Carver and his parents made an unofficial visit to Indiana in late July last summer — before he had even attended a single football practice.
“I wouldn’t call it intimidating,” he said, “but it was definitely an eye opener.”
The Hoosiers coaches had him do a private workout. They started on a Jugs machine, which shot soccer balls much faster than the one he had at home and without spirals. He described the exercise as “a group of pigeons hurled at me at 100 miles an hour”.
The first bullet ripped the gloves off his fingers. Another nailed him in the face. Bullets bounced off his hands.
“I was like, I don’t know if this is going to work,” he said.
He settled in and started catching everything. The next step was fieldwork, but first the Indiana coaches had to teach Carver how to take a three-point position.
They showed him three different pass routes and gave each a name and a sign. Then they would call out the name or the sign and Carver had to follow the correct route.
He passed this part.
“It was my very first football experience,” he said.
Another first came later in the day during a tour of the facility. Part of the recruiting experience is a uniform photoshoot to promote on social media. Carver took the uniform with full pads into the locker room, then emerged a few minutes later.
“I don’t know how to put this,” he told the group. “I’m going to need help here.”
The Hoosiers offered him a favorite hangout that day with the idea that it might turn into a full scholarship offer once they saw him play in a real football game. .
Carver didn’t watch football on TV until he was growing up, so he didn’t have a deep understanding of the game. He got a crash course in pass route concepts and defensive patterns by playing a game. popular video.
“I learned what Cover-2 meant from Madden,” he said.
His size and athleticism overshadowed his brutality as he took the field for Culver with a few moments of hilarity sprinkled throughout.
His parents, Jim and Kelly, sat in the stands and wondered why the officials kept talking to their son. Once, the referee informed Carver while playing defensive tackle that he needed to stop mimicking the quarterback’s pace, hoping to disrupt the offense. He didn’t know it wasn’t allowed. He also drew some flags for roughing up the quarterback.
“In hockey, you have two seconds after they get rid of the puck to complete your check,” he said. “I thought it was the same rule for football. The o line wasn’t very happy with me.”
Carver caught 17 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns last season. His physique and his potential at the tight end created intrigue with recruiters.
West Virginia became the first Power Five school to offer a scholarship last fall. Offers poured in after Carver decided to drop his lacrosse commitment at Notre Dame in favor of pursuing a football career. Rivals.com lists him as a four-star recruit and the 15th tight prospect nationally in his class.
“My goal is the NFL,” he said.
He targeted schools with a history of developing tight ends and sending them to the NFL. He made an official visit to Miami last weekend and plans to visit LSU and Iowa this month.
“He crams three years of recruiting into five months,” his father said.
Because his recruiting cycle is so far behind the others, Carver was reclassified in the class of 2023. He will spend a semester this fall and play football as a post-graduate at Loomis Chaffee School, a preparatory school powerhouse in Connecticut. He will enroll in college for the winter semester. He plans to make his college choice by July 1.
His life was a blur between his college visits, turning 18 in early June, and graduating from high school with a grade point average of 4.0 on a weighted scale with AP courses.
He thrived in Culver’s military structure that requires cadets to live in barracks and march to breakfast, among other duties. Carver became the second highest leader of his residential unit of 54 cadets, despite only remaining there for three semesters.
“It’s really hard to gain a leadership position if you’re not here for three or four years,” said Dorrel, his football coach.
Carver has always been adaptable and a quick learner. When he finds something that interests him, he pursues it with complete conviction, even if the effort is a totally new experience.
“I don’t let it hold me back,” he said.
College football coaches would agree.