To the chagrin of opposing quarterbacks and glee of his teammates, Kwanzi Jackson has been reinstated to the Manatee High football program.
The Hurricanes' defensive end, who terrorized quarterbacks last season in leading the area with 25 sacks and 75 solo tackles, received notice Monday from Manatee principal Donald Sauer that he may return to the football team.
Jackson and two of his teammates were suspended last March after police said they were involved in a burglary of an unoccupied dwelling. The 17-year-old Jackson went through the juvenile court system, where adjudication was withheld and he was taken off probation last week.
“Through the process, Kwanzi has been remorseful and has accepted full responsibility for his actions and wishes to to make this into a positive by helping others not make the same mistake,” Sauer said in a statement. “It is because of how Kwanzi has handled this situation that our administration team felt it appropriate to allow his return to extracurricular activities.”
Jackson's father, Charles Jackson, said his son preferred not to talk with the media now but emphasized he learned from his mistakes and wants to move forward.“As a parent, you always have concern for your child’s well-being,” Charles Jackson said. “Once you admit that mistake, then it’s time to move forward from that. All of us as teenagers made mistakes. What Kwanzi did cost him and it’s not the last he is going to hear about it. We are just glad to see everything is OK.”
Manatee head football coach John Booth had multiple reasons to enjoy the news. He is pleased the way Jackson handled his time away from the program and happy on how his return will impact the team.
“He can definitely help us, but the most important thing is how Kwanzi has been able to handle himself throughout the process. We are happy he has been able to grow and learn from this situation,” Booth said. “He was told the things he needed to do by the court system, and he did them and there was no negative reaction or anything to raise concerns.”
During his suspension, Jackson was not allowed to work out with team or partake in any kind of activities. His father said he stayed in shape by attending camps not affiliated with the high school and trained with former Manatee assistant coach and quarterback Tracy Sanders.
Jackson has verbally committed to Tulane, but that could change. He has been offered by Toledo and is expected to receive additional offers now that his suspension has been lifted. His father said Kwanzi has been getting a lot of interest from USF, Virginia Tech and Georgia.
“I don’t think he will be attending other college camps now that he can work out with his high school team, which is good because you always worry about injuries,” Charles Jackson said.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Herald All-Area Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, Jackson is an elite athletic pass rusher who will be used some at outside linebacker as the Canes plan to employ a 3-4 alignment at times next season.
“The major question for the college coaches is was this a mistake or was this who he is. The reality is that he made a mistake and that was not his true character,” Booth said. “There is no denying his athletic ability, and a lot of colleges were just waiting to see how this would turn out. His recruitment will pick up now that he is back on the field.”
The two other Manatee football players involved in this case, heralded running back Johnnie Lang and Malik Mitchell, have had their cases go to adult court. Both have been set for trial during a two-week period beginning Sept. 21. The Hurricanes will have played four regular season games by that time.