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Brian Tannehill Stanhope Elmore's TJ Jackson (5) picks up a fumble. 

Most teams around the state heard about Stanhope Elmore’s defensive front. The Mustangs had three players record at least 10 tackles for a loss and senior captain T.J. Jackson led the way from the middle of the line.

The Troy commit was a force for the defense, slowing opposing rushing attacks and affecting several passing attempts every game. He racked up 72 total tackles while forcing five fumbles and recovering two of them. Jackson is the Elmore County Defensive Player of the Year.

“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Stanhope coach Brian Bradford said. “You see how big he is on the field but he’s a chiseled up 300 pounds. He’s a specimen. To be that big and move that well, you don’t find that every day. He was just different.”

Jackson lived in the backfield, whether he was making a tackle or just pressuring the quarterback, but there were very few players that got away from him once he made contact. Jackson finished with 41 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks.

“He never stops,” Bradford said. “He’s a machine. I don’t care how good you are, you’re not going to block him with one person. He’s 100 percent all of the time and he plays sideline to sideline.”

After the season finished, Jackson said he was surprised by his numbers but he gave a lot of credit to his teammates on the line. William Whitlow Jr., Caleb Foster and Justin Motley all made major impacts in the trenches and Jackson benefitted from that.

“They help out a lot,” Jackson said. “Whitlow and Foster are always on the pass rush and they get picked up by the running back blocking. Justin took a lot of double teams and I just took advantage of that. I love those guys like brothers. It takes a lot to have that much pride in what other people do.”

Jackson saved his best season for his last as he helped the Mustangs into the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2010. The defense allowed just 16.8 points per game and recorded two shutouts.

“It felt good to finish with this season,” Jackson said. “We built a stronger brotherhood. Now that I’m leaving I just hope me and the other seniors laid down a foundation for these guys to do better than we did.”

Bradford said Jackson still has plenty of room to improve and he expects Jackson to get to work and do that when he gets to Troy next year. Jackson signed with the Trojans in November and was a part of the program’s best recruiting class in school history.

“That really means a lot to me,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of other prospects coming in with me so we’re ready to take Troy to the next level.”

Jackson said his time at Stanhope has helped him prepare for the next level both in the weight room and in the classroom. Bradford said Jackson’s work ethic will be enough to make an impact at Troy but it may not stop there.

“To play in the NFL or anywhere else at the next level, you have to be special and he is,” Bradford said. “There is no ceiling for him. He’s going to play at Troy and he’s going to make an impact.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.