Louisiana Players Shine in Jackson, Miss.
by Jeremy Anderson
There’s no question that the state of Louisiana consistently proves to be one of the most productive hotbeds of high school football talent. According to the Times-Picayune last year, Louisiana was rated as the state with the most NFL players per capita.
With such rich talent grown on Louisiana soil, it is not hard to understand why so many colleges, in-state and out-of-state, look in Louisiana for the top recruits in the country.
Jackson State University, a division one college a part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), is a school in Jackson, Miss., that has always come to Louisiana to find talent.
Home to some of the greatest players to ever play football such as Jackie Slater and Walter Payton, Jackson State has relied on talent from Louisiana to become one of the strongest forces in the SWAC and all of HBCU football.
This past season, Jackson State had Louisianans in key roles on both sides of the ball.
Jairus Moll, a junior business entrepreneurship major from New Orleans, was the second leading receiver for Jackson State in 2014. He hauled in 34 catches for 485 yards and six touchdowns. At West St. John High School, Moll was an all-district, all-metro, and all-state performer in class 1A. He also was a Warrick Dunn Award finalist.
At Jackson State, the Louisiana players always share a bond with each other. According to Moll, “… we click off the jump. The culture is basically the same down there as far as the seafood, stuff we eat, and the way we talk. So we know the love for each other when we’re from the same area.”
Justin Jemison, a 2013 graduate of Central High School in Baton Rouge, saw playing time as a true freshman at Jackson State playing mostly on special teams. In 2014, he consistently saw game time playing cornerback throughout the season and also recorded his first career interception late in the fourth quarter against Texas Southern University. The interception set up the game-winning drive for Jackson State.
Jemison did not receive any scholarship offers from schools in Louisiana, so he went where he had a chance to play. “You know we have a SWAC school in Baton Rouge, where I’m from, Southern University. So for me to go home and play in front of my family and have a chance to play against a school that didn’t give me the opportunity that Jackson State did … I think it’s a great opportunity to make the non-believers believe. Whenever we play against a Louisiana school it’s always kind of a chip on my shoulder. I just want to show them what they missed out on,” says Jemison.
Two rising sophomores at Jackson State also hail from Baton Rouge. Kadaro Smith, a graduate of Scotlandville Magnet High School, saw sporadic playing time on special teams, but looks to make an impact in the defensive secondary going into his sophomore season. Asam Asam, a talented offensive lineman, moved to Baton Rouge after living in the country of Cameroon. Being a graduate of McKinley High School, Asam was Smith’s chief cross-town rival. But now, the two are teammates and working with each other to get better at Jackson State.
Asam makes sure to represent Louisiana well when being around his teammates. “It means a lot. It’s like you are taking a piece of Louisiana somewhere and introducing other people to it. (Teammates) see you and your state and what you represent and what you stand for and what your culture is,” says Asam.
Smith, who just finished his freshman season, credits Louisiana for his transition to college. “The playbook is very different. It’s bigger. The players are bigger and faster, but Louisiana really prepared me for college football.”
Jackson State will likely continue to rely on Louisiana talent in aiming at a sixteenth SWAC championship in school history, and possibly a fourth player to reach the NFL Hall of Fame.