Photo via Tayven Jackson on Instagram

Tayven Jackson drawn to IU football’s culture, family

When Tayven Jackson entered the transfer portal, Indiana quickly stuck out.

The redshirt freshman quarterback entered the transfer portal after one season at Tennessee. He committed to Indiana just two days later.

Jackson had existing relationships with Indiana’s coaching staff, from when they recruited him out of Center Grove High. And he said IU head coach Tom Allen sold him on the culture around the program.

“It’s because of coach Allen’s energy, the love that he has for the players, what he brings every single day, a loving culture,” Jackson said. “I’ve been here for a week, in the locker room, on the field, doing field work, and everybody loves each other. Everybody looks out for each other, everybody wants everyone to succeed. There’s no jealousy. The culture is fantastic. And that’s what I thought it was going to be coming in. It’s exactly what I thought. That was a huge part in making the decision to come here.”

Though Jackson chose Tennessee from his initial recruitment, IU Athletics remained in his periphery. He’d come to watch his older brother, Trayce Jackson-Davis, play for IU men’s basketball. So when he entered the portal, Trayce was part of the conversations that Tayven had with his entire family about his decision.

Jackson visited IU on January 14, and attended the men’s basketball game against Wisconsin. He’s watched his brother play so many games over the years, but that experience was unlike any of the previous occasions.

“It was different, because I usually just go in that stadium as a fan just to watch my brother,” Jackson said. “I was on a visit, but really, I was there watching Trayce, because I can watch that dude play basketball forever. He’s the best basketball player I’ve ever seen, and I enjoy watching him play. But I know I was on a visit and the fans did a – I mean it was crazy. It was so surreal what they did at Assembly Hall.”

Jackson committed to IU the next day.

He became the fourth quarterback on IU’s roster for 2023, joining rising junior Dexter Williams, rising sophomore Brendan Sorsby, and true freshman Broc Lowry. It’s a young, inexperienced group, which could give Jackson a shot to play right away.

He’s coming into Bloomington confident, both in his abilities and in what the team can accomplish.

“I’m going to do everything the coaches ask me to do, and I’m going to go 100 percent and I’m going to try to be the best quarterback I can be for this program. Coach Allen has already made this program amazing, so I’m just going to hop on board and do my best,” Jackson said. “The goal is to win a Big Ten championship.”

Indiana’s offense under Walt Bell played at one of the highest tempos in the country last season, so it’s not something any quarterback can come in and run. But Jackson is used to a fast pace, as the Volunteers also played up-tempo.

He doesn’t think that aspect of Indiana’s offense will provide a significant learning curve.

“(Bell is) going to do everything he can to put our quarterbacks in the right positions to make plays. So I have no doubt in him,” Jackson said. “I know that I can bring versatility with my feet, and just really get outside the pocket, use my feet, use my athleticism, and just make plays, not just a throwing standpoint.”

Allen and the Hoosiers liked Jackson’s athleticism, including his experience playing basketball and running track at Center Grove. And they were drawn to his attitude.

Jackson learned a lot from veteran Volunteers quarterbacks Hendon Hooker and Joe Milton, both in terms of playing the position and how to handle business off the field. The two biggest things he said he learned at Tennessee was how to read defensive coverages, and the importance of film room work.

That off-field aspect was a major area of growth for Jackson in the last year. He said he now sees playing college football as if it’s a career, which requires professionalism.

“Hendon and Joe, really taught me how to take this game into a business perspective, being always on time, always doing the right thing, always going overboard, getting in, getting film, getting work in, nothing is ever enough,” Jackson said. “You can’t be a great quarterback if you’re not a leader, and if guys, if you’re missing or you’re not going hard or you’re just messing around, the guys will see that and then you have a program that is just is not going as hard as they can.”

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