A football is almost always inside the 1997 Ford Ranger belonging to Jackson Daugherty.
“There’s always a football with me,” said Daugherty, a three-way player for the Greenwood High School football team this season. “I’m always carrying it around, doing something.”
There likely is a connection between the pigskin going wherever Daugherty goes and the hands entrusted as a starting receiver/cornerback/punt returner for the Woodmen.
Daugherty takes pride in being a throwback in this era of player specialization — the guy running a down and out one minute and defending one only a few plays later.
Daugherty entering Friday’s game against visiting Mid-State Conference rival Decatur Central leads his team in receptions (15), receiving yards (533) and points (36). He’s also second in all-purpose yardage and uses his trusted grip on the football to be Greenwood’s punt returner.
As a sophomore in 2013, Daugherty played strictly cornerback. Last season he was exclusively a receiver.
Now he’s both.
As for Daugherty’s 3.6-yard average on punt returns, don’t be fooled. The benefit is him being able to secure the football no matter how many defenders are bearing down on him with the ball still in midair.
“Our first rule is fair catch everything. But if you feel you can run it, run it,” Woodmen coach Mike Campbell said.
Not a frequent visitor to the Greenwood sideline, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior knew going into the season his efforts would be spread thin over the course of four quarters.
“I enjoy it. I like playing both sides and giving all I can to the team. Just leaving it all on the field. I would say I’m more of an offensive player that plays defense, but I really like defense,” Daugherty said.
“I’ve been able to get some adrenaline pumping after we score, but there are times when I’m glad to get a quick breather.”
Playing receiver typically benefits Daugherty when he plays corner — and vice versa.
“As a wide receiver you’re trying to get around the cornerback. As a DB you’re thinking, ‘OK, what’s he going to do’ You kind of have to put yourself in his shoes to see what he’s going to do by his mannerisms. That type of thing,” he said.
Greenwood (4-2, 3-0) is coming off Friday’s 31-21 loss to Guerin Catholic. Daugherty contributed three receptions for 147 yards — including a 67-yard touchdown grab — on offense and three tackles on defense.
Daugherty’s season-high in catches was the five he hauled in during a season-opening win against Perry Meridian; a Week 4 victory at Plainfield featured Daugherty picking off a Quakers’ pass attempt and returning it 27 yards for a score.
An outfielder for Greenwood’s baseball program, Daugherty put in the work during the summer to make himself better in both sports.
“I worked on my footwork a lot and got stronger in the weightroom,” Daugherty said. “Just being stronger and being able to cut faster and be quicker than I was before.”
Remaining on the field as much as Daugherty does proved necessary, particularly earlier in the season while younger teammates became more acclimated with varsity competition.
“The reason Jackson can do it as a cornerback is that you don’t take the pounding you do as a lineman. We do get him off the field occasionally, but he plays the majority of the plays,” Campbell said.
“Jackson’s demeanor, he’s pretty unflappable. But he’s a hard worker and really likes to play football. Just a good all-around athlete.”
THE DAUGHERTY FILE
Name: Jackson Daugherty
Parents: David Daugherty and Jennifer Meier; sister, Isabella Daugherty, 15
Favorite TV show: “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”
Favorite food: Italian
Favorite movie: “Forrest Gump”
Favorite athlete: Troy Polamalu
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers