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Football: Alexandria’s Daniel Jackson makes commitment to Minnesota – Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA – Alexandria junior kicker and punter Daniel Jackson has been on the University of Minnesota radar for some time.

On Friday, Jackson took the next step in the recruiting process.

After a phone call with Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck on May 10, 2024, Jackson accepted an offer to play college football for the Gophers.

“It feels great; it’s everything I’ve dreamed of since I started kicking,” Jackson said in an interview with the Echo Press on Sunday. “I’m very happy to call Minnesota my home. The coaches are incredible, and the culture and history they have is elite and it’s something I want to be a part of. I’ll get the opportunity to compete and get close right away staying at home, which is important to me and my family.”

Fleck called Jackson on May 10, 2024 at 4:00 PM, but Jackson was training and missed the call.

But Jackson, along with his parents, made contact with Fleck later that evening and made his verbal commitment.

“I called him back when I got home around 5:30 p.m., but my parents weren’t home, so we waited until I got home from my siblings’ track meet around 9:15 p.m., and we all had a great phone call,” Jackson said. I think Coach Fleck just wanted to make sure my parents were involved. Of course my parents have discussed it all and they are very excited. Coach Fleck was excited. It was a surreal experience.”

This spring has been a very busy time for Jackson, who is rated as one of the top kickers in the state and one of the top kickers in the country. He has visited NCAA Division I schools such as Army, Indiana, Iowa State, North Dakota State, Ohio State and Vanderbilt, in addition to being an athlete on the Alexandria boys’ track and field team.

“It was extremely busy,” Jackson said. “It’s taken a lot of advance planning, and I think it’s been a big help to my parents in planning a lot of things and being willing to take me on those outings. With school, athletics and all, it’s a busy time, but since If you use your time wisely, I think it can definitely be done. It took a lot of planning and effort, but it was well worth it.”

He had also previously attended Iowa, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Jackson also has offers from Army, Cornell and North Dakota State.

Minnesota already has one former Alexandria Cardinal in its program, wide receiver Kristen Hoskins, who will be a sophomore this fall.

Jackson started kicking at a very young age.

On January 10, 2016, at the age of eight, Jackson was one of many Minnesotans watching the Minnesota Vikings host the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC playoff game. In that game, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds left, allowing the Seahawks to earn a 10–9 win.

Feeling shaken that day, Jackson decided to give it a try and began to hone his craft.

A few months later, Jackson wrote Walsh a letter of support after being cut by the Vikings. Walsh wrote back and sent a football match and some of his personal kicking equipment to help Daniel with his training.

As these years of training continued, his passion for kicking and his fandom of the Gophers grew.

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Daniel Jackson of Alexandria, wearing a University of Minnesota polo.

Contributed photo

“I’ve been a Gopher and Vikings fan probably since I was five or six, but it started to pick up when we moved to this current house five or six years ago,” Jackson said. “I can vividly remember when we moved into this house, we did some work on it, and we had the Gopher games on the radio because Saturdays were the days we worked on it.”

Jackson has had many different coaches since he started kicking, including Joel Monroe, a former Gopher who moved to Alexandria to help build the Cardinals’ kicking program.

Monroe played college football at Minnesota from 2005 to 2008 and moved to Alexandria when Jackson was in fifth grade (2018-19 school year).

Jackson was working on the field early one day before a sixth-grade football practice when one of the varsity coaches noticed Jackson’s kicking skills and encouraged Jackson’s family to contact Monroe.

Following this, Jackson then began working with Monroe and continued to develop his skills.

“Joel has been a blessing to my life,” Jackson said. “When I first got to call him when I was in sixth grade, the stars kind of aligned there too. He trained me to be a better kicker and man, and he has such an important role in my life. Being a former Gopher, I’m sure this is a dream come true for him too… I want to give a special thank you to him, Alexandria (head) coach Mike Empting for pushing me to be the best I can be. Without them this wouldn’t be possible.

Jackson began making a name for himself in eighth grade, drilling 50-yard field goals and being invited to national showcases designed for children in grades 9 through 12.

Jackson has had the opportunity to participate in many kicking camps, including the Kicking World National Showcase in Texas, where he has placed as one of the top kickers several times.

Recently at Phase3 kicking camp, Jackson made a 60-yard field goal and had kickoffs of 75 yards or longer.

Currently, Jackson says he does one or two stair workouts a week. As football season approaches, Jackson said, with Monroe’s help, he will get feedback from Minnesota special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky and work on the things he tells him to do.

“We’re going to find out what he wants to see me work on, and he’ll come see me here soon,” Jackson said. “We’ll talk about what they want to see from me and what I need to work on. I know there are definitely things I need to work on, whether it’s getting bigger, faster, stronger or improving my consistency.”

Jackson finished the 2023 season as a Kicking World All-American. The three Kicking World All-American selections were made based on season statistics.

He also earned Alexandria’s Special Teams Player of the Year award and the Northstar North District Special Teams Player of the Year award.

Jackson earned all-state honors when he was named to the SBLiveMN All-State First Team and the Associated Press All-State Second Team. He also earned honors in the classroom, finishing as the winner of the MSHSL Academic Gold Award. In 2022 and 2023, he also earned Player of the Year honors for Alexandria and District special teams, was an all-district selection and earned an MSHSL Academic Gold Award.

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Alexandria kicker Daniel Jackson follows up on a 25-yard field goal in the first half of a game on Sept. 30, 2022, as Brainerd’s Brandon Stark gets a hand up that goes around the rim. Boone Branson, 15, got the lead for Alexandria. Jackson added a 53-yard field goal in the third quarter, giving the Cardinals a 6–0 lead at the time.

Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Jackson made 11 of 15 field goal attempts (one kick blocked) in 2023, made 44 of his 46 extra point attempts (two blocked attempts) and 60 of his 73 kickoffs were touchbacks. He averaged 33.1 yards per punt.

Jackson currently has the longest field goal in an MSHSL State Tournament game, having nailed a 52-yard field goal in a 38-14 Class 5A quarterfinal win over Rogers.

Jackson is third in the MSHSL record books on the longest field goal list when he made a 53-yard field goal against Brainerd in 2022. Jackson’s only follows Ken Johnson, who made a 54-yard field goal in 1994 at Centennial, Circle Pines, and Fabian Klienschumacher, who made a 57-yard field goal in 2003 for Climax-Fisher.

Jackson also holds the state record in average kickoff distance in a season at 59.55 yards. His average kickoff distance of 59.15 is the second highest. His 11 made field goals in 2023 rank him fourth on the state’s single-season field goals made list.

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Alexandria’s Daniel Jackson (center) scores the game-winning field goal in Alexandria’s 20-18 victory over Monticello on September 8, 2023.

Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Jackson’s standout year in 2023 was one of many Alexandria had in a season that saw it go 11-1 and reach the semifinals of the Class 5A State Tournament.

In 2024, Jackson, who will be one of Alexandria’s team captains, is looking to make more entries in the state record books.

“I want to have a touchback percentage between 90 and 95 percent,” Jackson said. “It’s a little tough with the wind and the cold in Minnesota, but that’s what I’m going to shoot for. I’m going to shoot to break my kickoff records again and then get the all-time kickoff distance record. I also want to break the state field goal record when I get the get a chance. I want to keep my field goal percentage above 80 percent. If I can get all my extra points without blocking, that would be incredible to help my team.”

As he looks forward to football season, Jackson is working on getting back on the court.

Jackson suffered a hamstring injury after a meet at Monticello on April 23.

“I’m recovering, but I’m feeling good,” Jackson said. “Hopefully I can start competing soon. My body feels great; I feel fast. I’m excited. I definitely haven’t reached my full potential for this year with times and everything, so I’m excited to see what I can do doing.”

Jackson was involved in two track victories this season. He won the 100-meter dash in Brainerd on April 11 with a time of 11.07, and he was part of the winning 4×100-meter relay team with Trey Negen, Dane Olson and Elliott Kent, which finished that same day with a time of 43 ,97. Jackson also won the 60-meter dash at the Central Lakes Conference Indoor Championships on April 6 with a time of 7.18.

For the past two years, Jackson has competed in the MSHSL Class AA State Track and Field meet. In 2022 he was part of the 4x200m relay team that finished 11th (1:32.34), and in 2023 he was 20th in the 100m sprint (11.42).