By Zach Duncan
Friday, June 8, 2012

Kendall Jackson can be easily picked out among the Oil Bowl masses.

Just look for the teenager holding the football. It’s with him everywhere he goes.

The pigskin stays tucked under his arm while he eats at Midwestern State’s Mesquite Dining Hall. It lies in his bed while he sleeps at night.

“I always carry one,” the Arlington Sam Houston quarterback said. “I try to work at getting my fingertips stronger.”

What enticed Midwestern State to offer the Wichita Falls native a scholarship had nothing to do with that idiosyncrasy and everything to do with Jackson’s abilities when he is clutching a football on a 100-yard expanse of turf.

“He’s a dual guy who can run and throw and is very athletic,” MSU coach Bill Maskill said. “I’ve been trying to get a guy like him since (Daniel) Polk. (Brandon) Kelsey is probably a better passer than Polk and a lot like Polk, and this kid is a lot like those guys.

“In our offense, a quarterback has got to be able run and throw, and he can do both.”

Jackson only started one year as a varsity quarterback, and to even do that, he had to transfer from Mansfield Timberview.

That’s because Timberview had a three-year starter in Chuck Taylor, who helped lead the Wolves to the 2011 5A Division II state semifinals.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Taylor wasn’t heavily recruited for football, but he was chosen in the fourth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in this week’s MLB Draft. Jackson was told by the Timberview coaching staff that if he stayed, he’d start at receiver. But Jackson had dreams of becoming a college quarterback, so he was able to change school districts.

With a new coach and a new quarterback, Sam Houston mustered only one victory in 2011. But what Jackson learned during that time will help ease his transition to college football.

“I grew a lot and matured a lot during that experience,” Jackson said. “It taught me how to adjust to certain situations. Everything’s not always going to be perfect and the way you want it.”

Jackson grew up in Wichita Falls but left before sixth grade when his mother’s job was transferred.

Two of his childhood friends — Brandon Sheppard and Anthony Wagner — also are on the Texas roster this week.

“It’s kind of exciting to get to play in Wichita Falls in front of my friends, family. It’s basically home for me,” Jackson said.

Besides regaining familiarity with the MSU campus, Jackson has an added benefit of being selected to play in Saturday’s 75th annual Oil Bowl.

He has been throwing to future MSU receivers Rashid Turner of Rockwall and Blaine Curren of Burkburnett.

“Working together is obviously going to be a plus for him,” Maskill said. “This gives Kendall a chance to work with Rashid, who has a chance to play next year. That might be an added benefit to both of them.”

Maskill believes Jackson or fellow incoming freshman Jacorey McQueen of Manor could become the team’s No. 3 quarterback this fall behind Kelsey and Jake Glover.

But before he can focus on that, Jackson will try to lead Texas to a victory over Oklahoma, which would end his Memorial Stadium losing streak.