• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

UK center Drake Jackson talks football, value of education

Before earning a scholarship to continue his education and play football at the University of Kentucky, Drake Jackson was a student at St. Leo School for three years.

The Woodford County High School graduate reflected on how much being a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade student at St. Leo meant to him during his visit there last Thursday, Feb. 1.

“I love this place so much. I learned so many things,” said Jackson. He then urged St. Leo students to appreciate their teachers, their school and – most importantly – their parents.

“Your parents spend a lot of time, money and effort to send you to this school. They do. They do,” Jackson reminded over 200 students.

The 6-foot-2 offensive lineman then recalled the summer day after his freshman year of high school when his father told him that he could no longer afford to send him to Lexington Catholic. “That was the first time I’d ever seen my dad cry,” said Jackson.

Seeing tears fall from his father’s eyes opened his eyes to the sacrifices his parents, Brian and Candy Jackson, made so he could go to St. Leo and Lexington Catholic. “When I was your age, I didn’t realize it,” Drake Jackson told St. Leo’s students.

With his visit coming on Family Appreciation Day during Catholic Schools Week, Jackson said, “If I were you, I would go home and thank every one of your parents … I’d go up to them and give them a great big ole hug and say, ‘Thanks for sending me to this school.’ “(Is) anybody going to do that?” Most every student raised his or her hand in response.

Asked what encouraged him to play sports, Jackson said, “That’s what I found fun … because I was kind of good at them.”

He said two-hour daily workouts are not much fun, but being able to celebrate a victory with your teammates on a Saturday afternoon – “that’s the most fun thing about football to me.”

“If it wasn’t fun to play football,” he later explained, “you wouldn’t be able to do all of the hard stuff that comes with it.”

In addition to daily off-season workouts and football practice during the season, Jackson must also balance his classes and homework. “So it’s not all fun. It’s hard work,” he said.

Jackson said he remembers listening to a UK football player who came to visit St. Leo School when he was a sixth-grade student. He got to touch that player’s bowl ring, watch and jersey, and wanted to give students a similar experience on his visit.

But before he started passing around his UK ring, watches and football jersey to students, Jackson offered a few words of caution.“This is all I got,” he told them. “…So you guys have got to promise me that you’re going to take care of it, you’re not going to wipe your boogers with my jersey…”

Jackson – on pace to earn a business degree in the spring of 2019 – said football created an opportunity for him to continue his education after graduating from WCHS.

During her introduction of Jackson, social studies teacher Kate Bauman told students, “Our speaker today – not only is a UK football player, but he was a St. Leo student just like you.”

Bauman and Principal Helena DiBiasie described Jackson as a good student, who understood the importance of school.

“He was very, very determined, very conscientious … and he was a great kid,” said Helena DiBiasie, Jackson’s math teacher.

“And he worked really hard at everything he did,” she added.

“He loved to make his classmates and teachers laugh,” said Bauman of her eighth-grade year with Jackson, “but he was a great student … just a pleasure to have in the classroom.”

Knowing his character, drive and determination, “It was no surprise to me,” said Bauman, “that he was playing football at the University of Kentucky.” She takes pride in being able to follow Jackson and other former students whenever they “do big things in the community.”

“It’s pretty neat to say, ‘He’s a UK football player, but he went to my school too.’ So we’re just very excited,” added Bauman. Jackson’s visit came during the same week when St. Leo School hosted its first-ever career day last Tuesday, Jan. 30.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity for our students to learn about different occupations,” said Bauman. She said parents in a variety of different careers shared some of their experiences with students.

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