The first time Riverdale coach Brett Bonnafons saw film of Donte Jackson was during Jackson’s sophomore year.
He was so impressed that his initial two-word reaction isn’t suitable to be printed.
But it took college coaches a tad bit longer to see what all of the fuss was about this kid Bonnafons was bragging about.
Jackson, now a senior at Riverdale, needed just 10.42 seconds to make them understand.
That was the time on the clock when Jackson ran through the tape in the 100 meters at the LHSAA Class 4A state track meet last May.
It was the best time among all classifications.
“His recruiting really took off after that,” Bonnafons said.
Florida State offered, his first from a Power Five Conference school.
Then Ohio State, Oklahoma and other schools from across the country.
His recruiting took off about as fast as Jackson coming out of the starting blocks.
Jackson reached his recruiting finish line Wednesday, committing to LSU in a packed Riverdale gymnasium.
The 5-foot-11, 170 pound athlete, who is expected to play cornerback in college, chose LSU over Georgia.
Students in the crowd broke out with a chant of “LSU … LSU” right after Jackson made the announcement, donning a purple and gold Tigers cap and gloves.
He didn’t reach his decision until he woke up Wednesday morning.
“I prayed about it Tuesday night,” Jackson said. “I got up and did my normal routine. Then I went to the bag and grabbed both of the hats, and all signs pointed to this cap I’m wearing on my head right now.”
Jackson admits that it helped that LSU was just 45 minutes away and he’ll get a chance to play in his home state.
“LSU felt like a home away from home,” Jackson said. “I feel like we can make big things happen with these guys in our state. Why not just do it at home and help your state win a national title.”
One of LSU’s other commitments, Warren Easton receiver Tyron Johnson, was in the gym for Jackson’s announcement. Johnson said he wasn’t 100 percent sure what school his good friend would commit to.
“I always talk to him about the boot, the boot,” Johnson said about trying to get Jackson to stay in state. “I’d like to think I played a big part in it. But you never know with Donte. He had just visited Georgia, so it could’ve gone either way.”
Jackson, a five-star recruit by 247Sports and a four-star recruit by Scout and Rivals, is LSU’s 16th commitment. That excludes junior-college defensive back Jeremy Cutrer, who is not enrolling early in January as was originally expected.
It’s Jackson’s speed and versatility that makes him one of the state’s most dynamic players.
As a defensive back, he recorded 59 tackles and five interceptions for the Rebels, landing him a spot on The New Orleans Advocate All-Metro team.
On offense, he accounted for 1,637 yards and 20 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,042 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Jackson was also a standout on special teams, averaging 38.8 yards on kickoff returns.
“They are getting somebody who can walk onto campus and play for them right away,” Bonnafons said. “He is a great kid leadershipwise as well.”
Bonnafons said he expects Jackson to be used much like another former LSU player from New Orleans.
“I see them using him like Tyrann Matthieu,” Bonnafons said. “That and returning kicks plays to his skill set.”
Jackson will have plenty of competition at defensive back. He joins a class that includes five-star Florida cornerback Kevin Toliver II and four-star cornerback Xavier Lewis of East St. John. LSU’s No. 2-ranked signing class last year included five defensive backs.
There are openings for the young talent to make an impact. The Tigers lost safeties Ronald Martin (exhausted eligibility) and Jalen Collins (entered NFL draft), and cornerback Rashard Robinson (no longer in school) from last season.
And Jackson expects to do just that.
“That’s DB (University), he said. “And I’m a five-star DB, so I think I will fit right in.”
Jackson can make his commitment official Feb. 4, national signing day.
“I’m very relieved,” Jackson said. “It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.”
His good friend Johnson, who will now have to go up against Jackson every day in practice, was relieved as well.
“That’s the one we really wanted,” Johnson said.