CALDWELL, NJ — Representing James Caldwell High School at the Phil Simms North/South All-Star Football Game at Kean University Monday, June 27, senior Justin Jackson will be one of only 42 players selected to play on the North All-Star team.
According to JCHS Head Coach Ken Trimmer, who is also the All-Star Game Director, it is a major accomplishment to be selected, as the annual game displays only the best high school football players from New Jersey.
“The young men that are picked for these teams have to be good citizens, a kid that the student body respects but also has the respect of the teachers, and he also is a good student to the teachers and the students,” said Trimmer. “Number two, they definitely have to have an athletic ability.”
Jackson, an offensive lineman for the Chiefs, is a monster on the field—standing at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing 325 pounds.
Although Jackson was selected for the All-Star game as an offensive lineman, which Trimmer said is rare, Jackson’s senior season was not perfect. Midway through the season, Jackson missed the second half of the season due to an injury to his hand that required surgery.
When the time came to nominate a player, Trimmer nominated Jackson and explained his history to the other three coaches on the North committee, but he could not participate in the voting process. Ultimately, the other coaches had seen videos of Jackson’s playing time from earlier in the season and voted him onto the team.
According to Trimmer, one of the first criteria New Jersey’s head coaches look at when nominating their players is whether her has a full scholarship to play football. However, Trimmer said that many colleges are taking kids so early in the summer that some of those kids cannot play in the game.
Trimmer, who nominated Jackson but did not take part in the voting, said the game could change everything for Jackson, who has not committed to college yet.
“The quality of the players we have has not really diminished because there are so many good players in the state of New Jersey,” said Trimmer, who was thrilled when he heard the committee voted Jackson onto the team. “This game is a great teaching tool for the colleges to see the game on video and be able to re-evaluate the kid and say whether or not they’ll offer him a scholarship or want him at the school. The results usually are very positive from the game.”
Trimmer reiterated the significance of being selected to play in this North vs. South game.
The 42 players from the North and the 42 from the South will report Kean University on Friday at 9:30 a.m., at which time the two teams will commence their hectic practice schedule.
Prior to Monday night’s 7 p.m. kickoff time, the boys will participate in two practices on Friday, three on Saturday, two on Sunday with a banquet Sunday night, and one walk-through practice on Monday morning. Trimmer said the boys would also be fed four times each day throughout the weekend, in addition to a special pregame meal before kickoff at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Thanks to Trimmer, many professionals will be involved in this year’s All-Star game, including Phil Simms, who will be present the entire weekend, as well as Neil O’Donnell and Scott Brunner, who are both former New Jersey high school football players.
O’Donnell, who graduated from Madison High School, played at University of Maryland, and eventually played quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans in the NFL, will serve as this year’s honorary North Coach.
Brunner, also a New Jersey native who attended the University of Delaware and went on to play quarterback for the New York Giants, will serve as this year’s honorary South Coach.