BRADENTON -- Spend a Friday night watching Kwanzi Jackson play football, and you'll find plenty to like.
His speed off the end.
His tenacious pursuit of a quarterback.
Yet perhaps Jackson's greatest attribute is patience.
A junior defensive lineman at Manatee, Jackson has taken a traditional route to the Hurricanes' starting lineup: freshman ball, followed by a spot on the junior varsity team last season.
The next step was the big team. And Jackson hasn't taken long to establish his big-game potential as he carries 10 sacks into Friday's game against Southeast.
"I knew I could play," Jackson said. "This year, I knew I would get that chance. ... And when I got in there, I knew I had to shine."
A Palmetto native who transferred to Manatee prior to his freshman year, Jackson is fresh off his most impressive performance of the season when he totaled 3 1/2 sacks and blocked a punt during the Hurricanes' 38-3 win over Sarasota.
"Kwanzi's just a wrecking ball out there off the edge," Manatee coach John Booth said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jackson. "He's just so long and athletic and really makes some plays."
Jackson looks like a natural on Manatee's defensive line. But he actually grew up playing linebacker and credits Manatee's coaches, including former line coach Steve Gulash, with his transformation.
Shifting positions meant Jackson had to use his hands to get past the block. Aside from the tutelage he received from his coach, Jackson said he learned a lot from watching linemen such as Diontay Dozier, who had three sacks last season before graduating.
"They took me under their wing and showed me what I needed to do," Jackson said. "I always had the dog in me, so I just played like I play."
"When I get in a game, I have that adrenaline pumping," he said. "I know what I need to do, so I just go in there and do it."
Manatee's defensive line has been in transition the past two years. The 2012 group of Demarcus Christmas, Blake Keller, Derrick Calloway and Marquis Dawsey, considered by some to be the best in the nation, is long gone.
Last year's group was led by Daniel Doyle, who piled up a team-high 13 sacks before heading to Duke. Ryan Fines, a Miami commit, transferred to IMG Academy prior to the start of the season.
It's a new-look unit, with Matt Mackey, Mahlik Mills and Delvon Mays joining Jackson. But that group, along with senior linebacker Nashon Smith, is a big reason why Manatee has recorded 22 sacks in four games.
The 2013 Canes had 32 in 12 games.
"We had a lot to prove," Jackson said. "Coach said before the season I needed to be a leader and show what I can do. And my dad always told me to strive for excellence and try to be better in everything I do."
Jackson's goal this season was to finish with 11 sacks, a number well within his reach even though the regular season isn't halfway over.
"It was just a number that I set for myself," he said, "and I can even go higher now."
Waiting has been worth it for Jackson, who spent the offseason working out with former Manatee quarterback Tracy Sanders. It's something he reminds himself of after every one of those sacks.
"Hard work pays off," Jackson said. "When I worked out with Tracy Sanders over the summer and doing all those two-a-days at the school, it paid off. Everything they said I was going to be doing, I did."