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June 5, 2012

VT Signee Jackson Playing At World Champs

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While the 28 members of Virginia Tech's 2012 signing class prepare for their Hokie careers, one addition will have to wait a little longer.

But he has a good excuse.

On May 15, Northside (Va.) tight end Dakota Jackson was selected to compete for Team USA at the 2012 IFAF Under-19 World Championship on June 30 to July 7 at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Jackson will be part of a 45-man Team USA roster that will compete against teams from American Samoa, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Panama and Sweden. The team consists of graduating seniors and soon-to-be seniors from around the country.

"It's a great honor, first of all," Jackson said. "It's just a great opportunity to get out there and play in front of ESPN and other people. It's just more exposure and you get to represent your country, which is the ultimate thing. That's first in my mind."

The team will be coached by Cincinnati (OH) St. Xavier High School coach Steve Specht, who said he's been reviewing film of players around the country since the beginning of the year.

The first player he offered a position on Team USA was Jackson.

"Obviously, being a Virginia Tech signee, that speaks volumes about your ability," Specht said. "Coach (Frank) Beamer was great back in 2009 with us when he gave us a number of kids to play on that team. Then, you watch his film and what jumps out is how athletic he is for his size. He's a two-way go guy, a TE/DE. He can run, he can redirect, has really soft hands. He's just a talented kid."

The first Team USA for the world championships was assembled in 2009, for which Specht was defensive coordinator. The MVP during the world championships was former Hokie running back David Wilson, who was selected this season in the first round of the NFL Draft by the New York Giants.

Jackson said he hopes to follow in Wilson's footsteps, using the experience as a springboard to his Virginia Tech career.

"Hopefully, it'll get me ready for college," Jackson said. "It's supposed to be the best in the world coming here. It'll help me get adapted to playing against that kind of talent and game speed. That should really help coming into the collegiate level."

Beamer and the other Virginia Tech coaches also gave Jackson encouragement as well as some advice for this summer.

"They gave it the 100 percent green light," Jackson said. "They just said to have fun, be smart, go out there and play. They said to represent the school well and just don't do anything stupid."

Jackson will also get some experience outside tight end, which he'll play for the Hokies. Specht said he plans to make use of his defensive end capabilities as the situations present themselves.

"We were looking at him as a defensive end and we're still gonna play him some at defensive end in this," Specht said. "To tell me he was recruited as a tight end, that gave me more intrigue."

But what really made Jackson stand out in Specht's mind was a conversation by phone. Specht said he sees Jackson as a big asset this summer and an impact player at Virginia Tech.

"When you talk about representing the U.S. you want quality people, high-character kids who get it. I offered him on the spot," Specht said. "Normally, what we would do is call and talk to the player then I would give my recommendation to the Team USA general manager. I offered Dakota right away and he's just a great kid."


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