DALLAS (AP) — His coach says Jackson Jeffcoat was "like a duck out of water" when he played linebacker as a freshman at Plano West High School.
That makes sense, considering he is the son of former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat. Two years after a return to his dad's position, the younger Jeffcoat was named Thursday to the first team of The Associated Press Sports Editors Class 5A all-state team.
"It was natural for him there," said Plano West coach Mike Hughes, whose team lost to Cedar Hill 52-49 in three overtimes in the first round of the playoffs.
Jackson Jeffcoat was a starter midway through his freshman year, but only after careful consideration of the burden on a young player already carrying around a famous football father's name.
It worked out fine. A standout sophomore season was followed by a junior year plagued by aches and pains but notable nonetheless with 94 tackles, seven sacks and 20 quarterback pressures during the regular season.
"I felt that Jackson was mature enough to understand and physically mature enough that he could handle it," said Jim Jeffcoat, now a college assistant coach at Houston. "I thought that he would be all right playing varsity as a freshman."
The Cowboys' former first-round pick is predictably proud of his son, particularly for playing through injuries. He says that's part of the routine in the NFL, where players are "never 100 percent."
"It's easy to play when you're 100 percent and more difficult when you're banged up, and he was banged up this year," Jim Jeffcoat said. "I was proud of him how he battled through (injuries)."
Jackson Jeffcoat says he hasn't really felt burdens along the way. He loved playing as a freshman and says he's "just got to play through" the back pain and other ailments that marked this season. As for his last name ...
"I always tell him, 'I'm going to be better than you,'" Jackson Jeffcoat said of his dad. "It's motivation. I like it."
There's no guarantee the son will be a football player first, though. He loves basketball, and that sport figures to factor into his decisions as he starts to get serious about college choices this summer. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he's more slender than his father. And faster.
If football becomes the priority, Jim Jeffcoat said not to rule out a return to linebacker. He points to the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware, a pass-rushing linebacker who could set the NFL sack record this season.
"I think he runs well enough to be a linebacker," Jim Jeffcoat said. "He could do that in college."
The 5A offensive player of the year was Cypress Ridge quarterback Russell Shepard, who had 1,458 passing yards and 1,111 rushing yards and accounted for 33 touchdowns in nine games.
Nikita Whitlock of Wylie was the defensive player of the year. He had 101 tackles and 14 sacks and blocked seven kicks, two of which he returned for touchdowns.