COHRANE— Seventeen-year-old defensive back Adam Jackson earned himself a spot on the Football Alberta U18 team after three days of tryouts and competing with players from across the province.
Adam plays defensive back for the Cobras at Cochrane High School, and similar to every other youth sports program in the province, their season was shut down due to COVID-19.
Even though they were not able to be on the field, Adam said, he felt the support of the coaching staff throughout the year.
“They’ve basically done everything that they could. Had us on the field when we were allowed, we’ve been in the weight room all winter,” he said. “They’ve done everything that they could. It’s an amazing program and when you buy in this is what happens. You get to play for Team Alberta.”
Team Alberta South and Team Alberta North faced off against each other on Sunday (July 18) in Red Deer, with the south coming away with a narrow victory of 24-23.
Adam said the 2020-21 school year was difficult without football. After being away for so long his passion for the sport started to slip away, but it all came roaring back when he stepped onto the field this spring for the first time since the fall.
“It was disappointing at first. Being off the field for such a long time you almost forgot how much you loved being on it. As soon as we stepped on the field again for the spring camp it was amazing, it was like nothing else.”
His reignited passion carried over into the tryouts for Team Alberta.
“We knew it was coming up. When spring camp hit, we knew we had minimal time to get ready to compete with these guys,” he said. “They’re intense. They do it right and its good football— It’s really good football. Everyone there is talented and there’s a lot of competition.”
The Cobras have won themselves six consecutive provincial championships, and have made a name for themselves in the football world.
The leadership of their head coach Robbie McNab and defensive back coach, special teams’ coach and assistant defensive coordinator, Tom Knitter, and the notoriety of their program as a whole was obvious during the training camp, Adam said.
“Everyone there knew Mr. Knitter and Mr. McNab by name, everyone knows who the Cobras are. Some people like us and some people don’t, but that’s how it is in every game. It was pretty cool to see because we play in such a small town, it’s nice to know all the big Calgary schools and everyone else around knows who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The opportunity to make Team Alberta meant Adam played alongside the best U18 athletes the province has to offer, which is a prospect that proved to be exciting.
“It will be fun. A lot of the kids, you know them because you’ve played against them, the coaches scout them and everyone knows they’re also talented. When we go and play the north, it’s the best kids in Alberta and I think it’s going to be some fun football,” he said.
After missing a year of high school football, Adam said, the opportunity to play among the province’s best served as a chance for him to build some of the crucial skills he would need during the Cobras season.
“With missing my Grade 11 year, that’s when you start to build leadership on the team. Going straight into Grade 12 with a brand-new roster, all of the Grade 12s are going to have to step up and be leaders,” he said. “Being able to talk and have the confidence to talk and communicate with other talented players on a really good team like this is only going to translate to good things when we come back to play in September.”
Even without the chance to play in his Grade 11 year, Adam said, with the support of the coaching staff and the rest of the seniors on the Cobras, he is ready for the responsibility of being in a leadership position on the team.
He added he felt as prepared as possible going into the Summer Series given the circumstances of last season.
“No one can be 100 per cent prepared considering what we went through last year. I don’t think anyone there is at 100 or 110 per cent like we should be. Everyone is competing for a spot, everyone is trying to get as much playing time as possible,” he said,
With Knitter leading the defensive backs at Cochrane High, Adam said he felt like he had a leg up on the competition during tryouts.
"With Mr. Knitter as the DB coach, a lot this stuff, none of these kids have done any of these drills and I’ve already done them 100 times,” he said. “We went into the tryout and a lot of these kids, we were doing some of these drills, and it looked like they had never done them before.”
During the final scrimmage of the tryouts, Adam said, he was impressed by what he saw and felt good about Team Alberta South’s chances at winning the Alberta Summer Series.
The defence, he said, gave them an edge against Team Alberta North.
“Defence wins championships,” he said with a grin.
Before next season, Adam said, he will be spending a lot of time in the gym, on the turf with his fellow Cobras and spending time from family.
“The goal is to pick up where we left off last year and win another ring. I’m more excited than anything. As soon as we hit the field it’s time to work. The first kickoff I’ll be nervous and after that first hit all of the butterflies go away,” he said.