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Prep Star Michael Jackson Is a Thriller in the Making : Profile: Blend of size, strength and speed make the tight end and linebacker the area's most-coveted player.


SANTA MONICA — If there is anyone who knows Michael Jackson jokes, it's Michael Jackson, who has heard them for years.

When he eats at a fast-food restaurant, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Jackson draws stares from customers when a friend announces his name over the loudspeaker.

"Michael Jackson, your hamburger is ready."

At Santa Monica High, where Jackson is a senior, a teacher calls his name in a falsetto voice: "Michael Jackson, are you here?"

Even friends who have known him since kindergarten sneak in a few jabs.

"Hey Michael, get up and show them how you moonwalk," said a teammate.

"Don't forget to bring your glove to practice," another says.

Jackson, 17, smiles as his teammates walk by, saving his revenge for the practice field.

"All the football players and my friends tease me," he acknowledges. "I don't mind because it brings attention to myself. When I meet someone, I never have to repeat my name. The name Michael Jackson sticks with them."

Jackson is the Santa Monica thriller: a tight end and linebacker who has drawn more attention from college recruiters than any other Westside-area player this season.

When Blue Chip Illustrated announced its dream team in August, Jackson was listed as one of the top 90 players in the nation.

"Potentially, he is one of the best in the country at his position," said Rick Kimbrel of Blue Chip. "He has nice movement for a kid his size. When you make the dream team, you're pretty special."

Considering that Jackson played for a team that went 0-10 in 1992, it is surprising anyone heard of him.

Last season, Jackson had 29 receptions for 686 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 37 carries for 367 yards and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, including a 95-yarder to open the season. Jackson was selected to the Bay League all-star team and to The Times' Westside first team.

"Michael did everything he could to help us," said Ron Guercio, who was Jackson's coach during his sophomore and junior years. "He's a very excitable kid who doesn't like to be a loser.

"He's got the magic. If he gets a full head of steam, you are in trouble."

Jackson stood out at Dick Lascola's preseason combine at Downey Warren High in March and the Reebok combine at El Camino College in May. He bench-presses 270 pounds.

Lascola, who operates the Fallbrook, Calif.-based Scouting Evaluation Assn., provides scouting information to more than 90 Division I schools.

"If he stays healthy and has himself a good senior year, I think he will probably be one of the more premier players in Southern California, in the state and one of the ranking players in the country. He has the raw talent and good size to be an impact player at the college level."

Jackson has a 2.7 grade-point average and has passed his college entrance examination. He would like to attend Stanford, but is also considering Cal, Washington State, Colorado, Nebraska, UCLA and USC.

Tom Lemming of Prep Football Report wrote about Jackson: "The scouts love this big, mobile (tight end) with great hands and outstanding body control. . . . One of the top five tight end prospects in the nation."

According to Allen Wallace's SuperPrep Preseason Special: "(Jackson's) big, powerful and carries his weight low in his huge thighs and calves. He's smooth, graceful, showed good hands."

Added Kimbrel: "He hasn't tapped his potential yet, not even close. When he does, watch out."

Jackson nearly bypassed a football career. Santa Monica does not have a Pop Warner program, so Jackson competed in basketball and baseball.

When he reached Santa Monica High, Jackson wanted to play football, but his mother objected. "She hates football because it was too violent," he said.

She eventually relented, and Jackson became a star on a 9-1 freshman team.

"We had 60 players on that team," Jackson said. "We were going to bring glory back to Santa Monica."

The Vikings, however, had losing records during Guercio's two seasons as coach.

Some players quit the team, but Jackson kept playing harder. He scored the only touchdown in a 72-6 loss to Hawthorne.

"I told the coach that I'll run at tailback," he said. "I knew Hawthorne can hit hard, but I wanted to give it all I had."

The Vikings, who open Friday night against Beverly Hills, will be coached by Danny Escalera, but the philosophy of the offense remains the same--get the ball to Jackson.

Jackson expects to get the ball about 20 times a game as a tight end, a deep back or a wing back.

"He accelerates really fast," Escalera said. "He's a big-play type of guy. Once he is in gear, boom, he's gone."

The Vikings opener is Friday night against Beverly Hills at Santa Monica College.

"(Jackson) is a big-time, impact player," Escalera said. "Our job is to get him up in touchdown catches. If we do that, maybe he'll set some records."

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