HARRISONBURG — James Madison ventured to a place it knows well to grab its latest commitment in the 2018 recruiting class.
Hermitage (Richmond) linebacker Mateo Jackson became the 10th pledge in the class when he announced his commitment on social media late Sunday.
The Dukes have three Hermitage alums on their current roster — junior cornerback Rashad Robinson, freshman linebacker John Kinney and freshman linebacker Trey Wilson. First-year tight ends and inside receivers coach Fontel Mines also went to high school there.
“My sophomore year was [Kinney’s] senior year at Hermitage, and I was in the rotation at linebacker with the first guys,” Jackson said by phone Monday night. “I didn’t start, but whenever the top linebackers had to come out for a break or a breather, I was that guy.
“And John basically took me under his wing and honestly helped me become the player that I am now, because playing beside him I saw this physical, nasty dude and it rubbed off on me.”
Jackson said he talked with both Kinney and Robinson throughout the recruiting process about JMU, which ultimately helped him come to a decision.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder garnered 14 scholarship offers from a mix of FBS and FCS schools, in addition to the one he received from JMU.
Seven games into his senior season at Hermitage, Jackson has racked up 51 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three interceptions, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery, helping the Panthers to a 7-0 start.
“A lot of schools offered me and said they wanted me in their program, but some kind of fell through once there was a dead period in recruiting,” Jackson said. “That was the last month of the summer, but through the thick and thin, there was JMU and I was also talking to Cincinnati.”
His lead recruiter is JMU defensive line coach Jeff Hanson. Jackson said he also speaks with inside linebackers coach Byron Thweatt frequently.
“They told me I could be a big-time player in their program,” Jackson said. “And ever since I first started talking to JMU, they made it seem like a family environment with the culture there, and when I went on my unofficial visit to their junior day, everything was great.”
Jackson said the same messages he got from Kinney and Robinson about the program were echoed by the JMU coaching staff.
Jackson said he’ll take another unofficial visit to JMU for its Nov. 11 contest against Richmond. He said he also would look to schedule his official visit to JMU soon as well.
From his conversations with Kinney and the coaches, Jackson said he’s excited to see how he adapts to the Dukes’ defense where he could play inside linebacker for Thweatt.
“First of all, I kind of play in a defensive system that is similar to the one they play in now,” Jackson said. “They’re very relentless and they fly to the ball, so it just looks like they have a lot of fun shutting down their opponents. That’s attractive to me.”
He said his biggest attribute is his football knowledge, which he credits Kinney for.
“I just kind of have a feel for the game,” Jackson said. “And I think some of that has to do with John Kinney and him taking me under his wing because we’d watch film together.
“And I do that often now, so I know the plays before they even come. I study it so I know what’s going to come, and then I’d like to say I’m pretty physical.”