The dream of playing Division 1 lacrosse is shared by thousands of youth and high school players across the nation. For some, the realization of that dream is simply a matter of hard work and dedication. Others, however, have had to sacrifice more than just their time. In a LacrosseAllStars Exclusive, we ask Deke about his journey and get some tips on how YOU can take your game to the next level.
University of Denver midfielder Deke Jackson, who started his high school lacrosse career in Idaho’s Treasure Valley Lacrosse League, tells LacrosseAllStars how he managed to work his way from an obscure lacrosse community to a high profile NCAA program, and how others might follow his path.
LacrosseAllStars: When did you start playing? How did you get involved in the game?
Deke Jackson: I started playing lacrosse in ninth grade. I played for the Jr. High league because Jr. High includes freshman in Idaho. I decided to start playing because I was having elbow trouble with baseball and I had played around with my dad’s lacrosse sticks before and had a good time with it. My dad played for Hobart in college.
LAS: Talk a little bit about your experience playing lacrosse in Idaho. What lessons did you learn? How did it affect you as a player?
DJ: Playing lacrosse in Idaho was a blast. I truly fell in love with the game there. I really enjoyed playing for Team Idaho during the summers and it really helped my game to get the extra practice. It was also really fun to play with kids from all around [the league]. I made some great friendships and always looked forward to playing against them during the high school season.
LAS: Who were some of the people that influenced your lacrosse career?
DJ: My dad made a huge impact on my lacrosse career. He was probably just as excited I was playing lacrosse as I was. He lives in California and coached a high school team there to a state championship. When Timberline (Deke’s Idaho high school) made the semi-finals my sophomore year he flew out to watch the game. During pre game he talked to my coach and my coach asked him if he would help on the sidelines. He ended up coaching the offense for that game. He stayed to coach the championship game, which we won. It was a dream come true.
Two other coaches that had a huge influence on me were my Team Idaho coaches, Greg Keyes and Alex Ide. When I was a freshman I tried out for Team Idaho. I made the team and played for the club for the next three years. They really made lacrosse and working hard fun.
LAS: Did you think you would be playing division 1 when you were playing in Idaho?
DJ: That was my goal. I wanted to play D1 and was devoted to it. That is the reason why I decided to go to prep school out east, in order to get recruited to play D1.
LAS: What was the biggest difference between your experience out west and your time in the east?
DJ: Going to the East Coast was a huge culture shock for me. I came from a middle class area in Boise to a New England prep school. As for my lacrosse experience I found that it was just a lot more popular and the best athletes played lacrosse. There was also a significant difference in coaching.
LAS: What made you choose Denver? Did any other schools express interest?
DJ: Denver seemed like a great fit for me. It was close to home, a competitive program and had a good business school. Since I’ve been here I’ve also realized that the weather here is awesome. I’ve also been enjoying going skiing and snowboarding in the Rockies here, which are amazing.
LAS: Any advice to kids from small lacrosse areas (like Idaho), if they want to make it to the Division 1 level?
DJ: Be pro-active. It is important to contact the schools that you are interested in and go to places where they can watch you play. If I were going through it again I would write emails to all the schools I wanted to go to and give them a list of camps I was going to during the summer so that they could watch me play. Also, making a highlight tape is a good idea. It is important to show that you are a good player but it is also important to show that you are playing against quality players. If you have a game tape of you dominating a team that isn’t very good I would avoid sending it.
The main thing is to get the coaches to know that you are interested so that you can get on their recruiting list. It is very hard to just go out there and hope someone sees what they like. Coaches will be more interested if they see you and already know that you would like their school.
Deke and the pre-season #19 Pioneers start their season this Saturday, February 7th, with exhibition games against Air Force (NCAA) and Brigham Young University (MCLA).