Split decision

The Jacksons' home in Belleville sits about 12 miles from blight-riddled East St. Louis, Ill., where Adoree's father was raised.

Christopher Jackson moved from East St. Louis after high school to attend business college in Los Angeles. He stayed in the area for 10 years and met Vianca, a California native. Christopher, Vianca and her daughter, Lekisch, left for Illinois not long after Lekisch's father was killed in a 1993 drive-by shooting. Two years later, Adoree' was born.

They settled in Belleville. Christopher works as a concrete mason. He helped build the sidewalks of the city's redeveloped downtown. Vianca draws blood at a nearby hospital.

Despite the distance of his father's hometown, the specter of East St. Louis loomed for the young Jackson. His grandmother remained in East St. Louis until recently. He visited regularly.

"East St. Louis is real toughness," Adoree' Jackson said. "It's right in your face. There's no getting around it. They don't care."

Lekisch moved back to California in 2007 with her husband, Jason, an Illinois native and the eventual first connection to Biggs, setting the stage in more ways than one for Jackson's 2011 move.

Christopher Jackson said he saw special athleticism in his son by about age 4. Adoree' tried to imitate every acrobatic move of his favorite movie, "Space Jam," and he picked up football easily when Christopher put him in pads as a sixth-grader.

Basketball always ranked as Adoree's first love. He played through 11th grade, when he suffered a broken ankle that hindered his progress in the long jump. Jackson still jumped 25 feet, though, finishing as runner-up at the California state meet after winning as a sophomore.

His football prowess emerged only after the move to California.

"I was just going out there for track at the start," Jackson said.

The football coaches recognized his talent and put Jackson at cornerback.

New to the position, he didn't know a thing about it. The coaches watched in confusion and wondered if the kid could make it. Still, his stint on the junior-varsity squad in 2011 lasted one day.

Beyond Jackson's elite set of skills, Altenberg, the high school coach, noticed unique qualities.

"He had just shown up, and it looked like had been there for a month, the way the other kids were drawn to him," Altenberg said. "He was instantly just in the middle of everything. It was bizarre."

Others have always gravitated to him, Adoree's mother, Vianca Jackson, said. He's a natural leader.

But she worries about the pressures he faces. Year by year during his stay in California, the burden has grown heavier.

* * *

Jackson's reputation mushroomed after his first year in California.

He played only defense as a sophomore. But as college recruiters took notice in 2012, Jackson blossomed as a diverse threat, helping lead the Cavaliers to a CIF Division II bowl game victory. He scored on touchdowns of 50, 27 and 78 yards in that final game of his junior year.

As a senior, Jackson earned first-team All-USA honors from USA Today and was named Mr. Football in California by Cal-Hi Sports, drawing comparisons to the 2004 winner of the same award, DeSean Jackson.

Like DeSean Jackson (no relation), Adoree' adds an element of sizzle to his game, best exemplified by the time he flipped into the end zone at the end of a run-after-the-catch score last year.

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