Jackson, Langston named Players of the Year
Not much was expected of the 2014 Hartselle Tigers.
The team had just moved up to Class 6A and was a part one of the toughest regions in Alabama and played one of the toughest schedules in school history.
Some were expecting Hartselle’s eight-year playoff streak to end. Others were worried if the Tigers could even have a winning record.
However, Jaylan Jackson and Holden Langston knew better.
“I could tell that we were going to have a good year just by the way we worked this offseason,” Jackson said. “Nobody really gave us a chance, but we knew we had a chance to be pretty good.”
The Tigers earned the No. 4 seed in Region 8 and could have finished second in the region if it weren’t for a last-second field goal by Decatur and a double overtime win by Muscle Shoals.
Part of the reason for the success of this year’s team was due to the Hartselle Enquirer Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year – Jackson and Langston, respectively.
However, the two players didn’t take the credit all for themselves. They said their success was due to the success of their teammates and coaches.
Langston said this year’s football team was one of the tightest groups that he’s been a part of.
“We’re just like a family,” Langston said. “We would hung out together all the time. And that didn’t stop with the end of the football season. We’re still just as close now as we were during the season.”
Head coach Bob Godsey called Langston the “glue that held it all together.” During the early part of the season, he helped prepare sophomore middle linebacker Connor Landers to be guy who calls all of the plays on defense.
Part of the reason for that is due to the preparation that Langston showed week in and week out.
Langston spent numerous hours watching film and learning, so that he knew what was going to happen before the play ever started.
“I knew what everyone was supposed to do,” Langston said. “I knew what the opponent was going to do before he did it. If I prepared like I should prepare, I knew I wouldn’t get nervous before the game. I didn’t get nervous too much this season.
“I loved getting to play against bigger competition and then take down the bigger guy,” Langston said. “Probably my highlight was finally tackling Nick Gibson this year.”
Langston led Hartselle with 121 tackles including five tackles for loss, two sacks, a pass breakup, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
While Langston did his part to lead the defense, Jackson was Mr. Do-It-All for Hartselle. He saw more snaps than any other play for the Tigers in 2014.
When asked if he ever left the field, he answered, “Not much,” but he didn’t mind playing both ways along with returning kicks.
“All that meant for me is that I had to be the best conditioned person on the field,” Jackson said. “It’s tough playing both ways in Class 6A, but I wanted to do everything I could to help my team.”
Jackson did just that.
He averaged a touchdown per five offensive touches. He caught 39 passes for 561 yards and eight touchdowns for a 14.4-yard average. He rushed 28 times for 320 yards and four touchdowns.
On special teams, he had 18 kickoff returns for 344 Yards for a 19.1-yard average, a blocked field goal return for a touchdown, six punt returns for 73 yards for a 12.1-yard average.
On defense, he had 51 tackles, four breakups and six interceptions.
Jackson said it was special to be able to play alongside his brother, Ja’mal, during their senior year. The two even got a chance to show off their skills on the same play.
Against Athens, Ja’mal blocked a field goal and Jaylan returned it 95 yards for a touchdown.
“I think I ran about 200 on that play,” Jaylan said. “That was pretty neat that Ja’mal blocked the kick and I had the chance to return it for a touchdown. It was great getting to play with my brother this season.”
Jackson said he and his brother are getting interest from several colleges. They plan to make a decision in February, which is when National Signing Day will be held.