Jackson's close seniors will scatter for school

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Jackson senior Matt James said he knew Southeast Missouri State was the right choice for him all along.

Classmate Brad Crader considered Southeast all the way until Saturday night, when he came to the decision to attend Division II Truman State in Kirksville, Mo.

James and Crader were among four Jackson football players to sign letters of intent for college sports on Wednesday. Eric Poythress decided on Missouri-Rolla, and Billy Uren chose Lindenwood.

The four seniors left an impression on Jackson coach Carl Gross, who guided the team to an 7-3 record and the SEMO Northern Division championship in 2004.

"This is a great group," Gross said. "The thing about our seniors is the kids led by example, and they were a very close group. After practice, they would sit around in the locker room and we'd have to run them out of there.

"They were very good role models for the younger kids to watch."

Crader, a tight end, and Poythress, a fullback/linebacker, were three-year starters for Jackson, while Uren grew to a 6-foot-4, 235-pound two-way player as a senior at tight end and defensive line.

James, 6-5, 302 pounds, admitted he wasn't much of a prospect entering high school after not getting much of a chance to play in prior seasons.

"I never thought I'd make it this far," said James, who briefly considered Southern Illinois as well. "I had excellent coaches all throughout high school. Jackson is known for its powerful line, and that's because of the coaches. All the time in the weight room helped, too."

Said Gross: "Matt was a great big kid who just hadn't grown into his body. We stayed with him, and he kept with it. He went from a big, heavy, awkward kid to a big animal who can flat pick the gymnasium up. He has long arms, good reach and good feet, which makes him a good pass protector."

Crader and James went through much of the recruiting process together, as Southeast made its pitch. The 6-3, 245-pound second-team all-state tight end reached his decision Saturday that Truman State was "a better fit."

"I felt like I was more comfortable at Truman," Crader said. "They said I might have a chance to start as a freshman."

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