During his junior season, Glenwood’s Jackson Griner showed he was a player who could give the Gators’ opponents nightmares. With his senior year closing in, his work has earned him some real recognition from coaches at the next level.

Griner received his first scholarship offer on Monday from Austin Peay, an FCS program in Clarksville, Tenn. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Griner could have more on the way soon, as he has received interest from schools such as Troy and South Alabama.

“It means everything to me. It’s wonderful to know that I will have the privilege of playing Division I college football,” Griner said. “I have always put in extra work after practice and workouts on off days, but I really believe that it was (Gators head coach Jason Gibson) and the Glenwood coaching staff that have built me to what I am today.”

Griner played a number of positions during his junior year, which included quarterback, linebacker, safety and punter for the Gators. He completed four passes for 64 yards and one touchdown, rushed 38 times for 421 yards and five touchdowns, and on defense he had 47 tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks and one one fumble recovery. He also averaged just under 30 yards per punt on 20 attempts.

His season, however, ended abruptly just before the playoffs when a freak injury at practice involving a teammate’s facemask led to him having about a quarter of his left middle finger amputated. Griner said losing part of his finger wasn’t that hard to accept. The hardest part was missing the Gators’ postseason run to the AISA Class AAA state title game.

“It was tougher not being able to play than anything,” Griner said. “The injury didn’t affect me mentally, but watching my team get beat in state knowing I could have helped and been a factor in that game did.”

Even though Griner couldn’t help the team during the playoffs, Gibson lauded what he did accomplish in 2019. He was especially impressed with his special-team skills, as he had the foot to boot big punts on a regular basis and also possessed the speed to successfully pull off a fake punt if he recognized an opportunity.

In Gibson’s eyes, it’s not hard to recognize why colleges are lining up to check in on Griner.

“It’s his athleticism, his size and speed. He’s a special player that can do anything,” Gibson said. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s a tremendous kid. He’s a good student, and that’s what we try to promote at Glenwood — character, academics and then athletics.”

Gibson is eager to see Griner grow as a vocal leader in his senior year, and Griner is focusing his offseason on getting stronger physically and mentally. He is already counting down the days until the season opener against Bessemer Academy — the team that beat the Gators in the title game last November — and he’s eager to actually face the Rebels this time around.

Griner has one goal in his senior season with the Gators: help the program win its first state title since 1992. He’ll likely grab the attention of more college coaches if it happens, and in that case he has a simple message for those interested in his talents.

“I’m a hard-working athlete. With one opportunity I will impress and prove I can play for your team,” Griner said.

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