Tyree Jackson’s quiet rise from overlooked QB to leader of a UB team off to its best start in nearly 60 years

BUFFALO,​ N.Y.​ — When I​ walked​ into​ the lobby of​ UB Stadium​ to meet Tyree Jackson, my​ mouth​ gaped at​​ the size of him. At 5-foot-3, I practically come up to the 21-year-old quarterback’s kneecap.

“How tall are you?” I marvel, once we are sitting eye to eye.

“I’m 6’7″ now,” Jackson says. He’s polite about it and cracks a smile, but I can tell he’s tired of talking about his height. It’s the first thing people notice about him, and it’s the first thing they want to talk about.

He knows it gives him certain advantages in his position, like the ability to see over the linemen and survey the whole field, and he’s grateful for the physical attribute. But it’s just one, small facet of who the University at Buffalo redshirt junior is as a quarterback, teammate and football player.

“People are going to view you how they view you,” he says with a shrug. “That’s just how it’s going to be.”

Much like his height, Jackson has grown and evolved as a football player since his freshman year at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Mich. Back then, as a 5-foot-9, 135-pound starting quarterback, his team went 1-8. But little by little, things changed.

As Jackson grew taller — 6’0” as a sophomore, 6’3” as a junior and 6’5” as a senior — so did his arm strength, agility and football IQ. During his sophomore year, Mona Shores improved to 4-5. The next season, the Sailors went 7-3 and made the playoffs. By Jackson’s senior year, they were 12-2 and competing for the state championship.

“I think our record got better as his development got better,” says Jackson’s high school coach, Matt Koziak. “When we started him, he was 13 years old. Which is nuts because I have a son who is 14 and I can’t imagine him playing varsity football, especially at the quarterback position. And as (Jackson) developed, it wasn’t just physically but mentally. Every year, he took huge gains.”

Koziak believes that Jackson’s overall business-like approach played a key role in his development. Even as a young freshman, Jackson took weight training and practice seriously. Plus, being forced onto a bigger stage at such a young age helped him mature faster.

Together, Jackson and Koziak turned Mona Shores into a thriving football program. Despite Jackson’s success, however, the University at Buffalo was the only school to look Jackson’s way at first.

“You know, I’d go to football camps and see these kids with all these offers and maybe feel that I’m just as good or better, and not have any,” Jackson says. “But once I got my first offer from Buffalo the summer going into my senior year, I was really excited.”

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