America's newest reality television darling is a high school quarterback from deep in the heart of Texas, and he's hoping a surprising victory on an MTV-network show will help him bring more attention to his future collegiate program.
Driphus Jackson, the quarterback for Cedar Hill (Texas) High, won MTV2's first ever "The Ride" contest, which followed a crop of high school senior quarterbacks through their final season, with a spot in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on the line. Among the eight different signal-callers profiled in the show, Jackson was the only quarterback from Texas, with his team's daunting schedule and exposure almost surely helping him walk away with the final prize.
Still, it took a lot for Jackson to get that far. First, the senior had to survive an initial camp, which cut the eight quarterbacks down to five. Then, Jackson made his mark at the Top Gun quarterback camp in the Virginia heat, where he stood out for maintaining mental strength while rooming with a fellow competitor and going through near constant competition with the other quarterbacks, from the football field to the pool and mini golf course.
Yet, the moment when Jackson really stood out was during his "hometown visit" on the show. Once the group of quarterbacks had been winnowed down to three, all three finalists were visited by the show's three coaches. They visited Texas to follow Jackson through his everyday routine and take in his game against legendary Friday Night Lights program Odessa (Texas) Permian.
That game proved to be Cedar Hill's first loss of the season, yet it also showcased why Jackson was a worthy recipient of an All-American Bowl spot. The quarterback piloted a fierce comeback from a 40-21 deficit deep in the third quarter before his Longhorns finally succumbed to the Permian Panthers, 53-42. Yet the failed comeback was notable for just how much Jackson carried his team. The senior passed for a 67-yard touchdown and also scored on a 13-yard run, at one point pulling Cedar Hill within five points at 47-42.
The loss was a setback for Cedar Hill's season, and for Jackson's campaign to win "The Ride," yet it wasn't devastating. The Longhorns responded to the loss by putting together an impressive run to the second round of the state playoffs, where they fell to eventual state finalists Denton (Texas) Guyer High. When Cedar Hill was successful, it depended on Jackson, who finished with an impressive 2,910 yards and 29 touchdowns and ran for an additional 625 yards, all in what is arguably the toughest classification in the country.
All those factors gave Jackson the edge over fellow "The Ride" finalists Travis Champion (yes, his name really is Champion) and Josh Harris. That landed him a spot in the Jan. 8 All-American Bowl at San Antonio's Alamodome. The quarterback, who also was named as an Associated Press Class 5A Honorable Mention quarterback and the District 5-5A MVP for his senior season heroics, has already committed to Rice, a decision he seems more than comfortable with, despite the additional attention that came his way due to his appearances on the MTV2 show.
"Coach Beaty has been honest with me from the beginning," Jackson told Rivals.com. "A lot of schools tell you whatever they think you want to hear to choose their school. He told me I can be a great quarterback, but it won't come immediately. I need to work on some things and he showed me the plan for me to get to that level at Rice. ...
"From the beginning the Rice coaches were completely honest with me. I chose Rice because they were the one school that we trusted the most. I have a great chance to play right away there and also get one of the best educations in America. It's the perfect fit for me."
Just as "The Ride" was the perfect fit for Jackson in his senior season.