By Chris Yow
MT. PLEASANT — Amidst a pandemic where college coaches are forced to recruit through the internet, there has never been a more critical time for high school athletes to make the best impression possible online.
Mt. Pleasant football coach Bronson Bradley has preached that importance for several years, but in 2020 the Tigers have taken a more dedicated approach to helping their kids create the best possible image on social media and e-mail with the hiring of assistant coach Terrell Jackson.
Jackson, who has a pair of sons who have gone on to play at the collegiate level, has been through the recruiting process, and he believes that makes him uniquely qualified to help Mt. Pleasant athletes succeed in that aspect.
“I have seven kids of my own, and two that play college football,” Jackson said. “I told them that once you step into high school football, if you want to get to the next level, it’s a business. Your job is to play football debt-free, and this is one of the biggest things that can mess you up. Grades are first, social media is second, the football field will take care of itself.”
The importance of that online presence is vital to the recruiting process.
“The first thing a recruiter is going to look at is your social media presence. What I try to get these kids to understand is your first impression is your best impression,” he said. “Not only do these coaches care about your social media, they care about what you like, what you repost and who your friends are. It’s the most important part of the process for a lot of kids.”
For many college coaches, social media can completely affect the recruitment of an athlete. Former SMU coach Van Malone posted to his Twitter account as far back as 2015 how social media negatively impacted players the school was actively recruiting.
“We have a team of people who monitor what recruits are putting on social media. Watch what you tweet and retweet,” Malone wrote.
There have been a number of examples of recruits having scholarships pulled due to issues on social media. Former Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep defensive back Yuri Wright, who was ranked as the No. 40 player in the 2012 class, had double-digit scholarship offers but was dropped by almost every team showing interest after being expelled for sexually graphic and racial Twitter posts.
Bradley said Jackson makes sure the players have the right profile pictures on social media and their Hudl accounts, professional usernames and e-mail addresses, among other necessities such as NCAA eligibility and ACT requirements.
“(Jackson) gives them homework assignments to make sure they’ve signed up for all of the things college coaches look at when they’re looking for players,” Bradley said. “He’s done a great job running with this assignment, and it’s a totally different atmosphere online with our kids now.”
A resident of Clarksville, Jackson makes the trek to Mt. Pleasant every day to coach wide receivers and defensive backs in addition to his social media duties. What he’s found in the small school is a culture of respect, and that keeps him excited to come to work every day despite the travel.
“These kids are all, ‘Yes, sir’, ‘No, sir’ all the time,” he said. “They are very coachable, and that’s a testament to the job Coach Bradley has done here with these kids. When I asked them to do something, they didn’t question it.”
Stepping into the role of wide receivers and defensive backs coach, Jackson is working with a group of very young players that includes just one junior. The majority of the skill players in his group are underclassmen, but he is proud of the work they have done to this point, and complimented, again, their coachability.
“Every day these kids come to work and get better,” he said. “They don’t have any reservations and they take what I teach them and put it into action.”
Jackson’s presence both on the field and in the social media arena has been a weight off Bradley’s shoulders, and he is grateful for the insight and the help.
“We are excited to have (Jackson) here, and we are really blessed to have the knowledge and expertise he brings to our staff,” Bradley said. “I had to juggle that stuff with everything else for a long time, but with his help, I don’t have to worry about it. I know our kids are going to put their best image forward.”