Kentucky football has started ramping up practice as they get ready to compete in a 10-game conference-only schedule this coming fall. A key component of the team is senior center Drake Jackson, who has racked up plenty of preseason recognition as a top player at his position.
Even while getting those accolades during the few months that everyone was in quarantine due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jackson had to make sure he stayed in shape. Fast forward to the beginning of practice, and the senior has lost 30 pounds as he is moving better than ever.
“In March when we were in quarantine, I decided to go one of two ways — I could get fat and out of shape, or lose weight and stay in shape. So I decided the ladder,” Jackson said. “I’m glad I did it. It’s not like I didn’t take it serious before, but now I gotta take it serious.”
Not only was he able to stay in shape, but Jackson said he was pleasantly impressed to see how good the offensive line group looked when the team returned after having to stay at home for a few months.
“When we came back, and I look in the o-line room, I was really impressed with how guys took care of themselves,” he said. “I don’t think there is one guy in that offensive line room that got fat and out of shape. And I think that’s a testament to the standards that we’ve set in what’s expected of us.”
With practice starting as Coronavirus is still spreading across America, the team has had to make sure to take extra precautions off the field. When they get between the sidelines, however, Jackson says football is the only thing on their minds.
“Of course, we’re all taking the virus very serious outside of football, and I respect all that’s going on with that,” he said. “But when we hit the football field, we’re football players going out to play football, and that’s what’s on our mind.”
Having started at the center position for three seasons already, Drake Jackson has had to battle accomplished defensive linemen like Quinton Bohanna and Marquan McCall quite often in practice. When asked about how refreshing it is to get back to competing against those guys, he had nothing but praise for them.
“Those guys are two of the best (defensive) tackles in the conference,” he said. “Both of those guys bring energy every day. They’re experienced, and they’re hard to move.”
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson is officially back from a season-ending knee injury that he suffered in the second game of the season last year, and Jackson also had praise for his work ethic and how professional the senior QB is, citing his 12-3 record as a starter.
“I love Terry — he’s a great dude. He’s always been professional about how he handles everything, that’s why he’s 12-3,” he said. “We’re excited to have him back and see what he’s able to do.”
On Friday, the NCAA decided to give senior fall sport athletes another year of eligibility no matter the circumstances due to Covid-19. Being a player that would have been going into his last season, Jackson now would technically have the option to return once again. With that said, he is yet to really look that far ahead.
“Everybody’s situation is different. I think giving us the option to do that was the right decision because it has been such a strange year. But in terms of me personally…I’ve never once been one to think very far ahead,” he said. “I’m focused on practice on Monday.”
With just a few weeks left to go until the Cats begin their season at Auburn on Sept. 26, Jackson and his teammates seem ready to battle an opponent outside of themselves.