- Adam Lichtenstein Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Rack your brain and try to remember what you know about South Dakota.
Odds are, you got Mount Rushmore and then drew a blank.
Palm Beach Lakes defensive back Jakari Starling and Palm Beach Central defensive back Tre Jackson didn’t know a lot about it either until South Dakota — the football program, not the whole state — started recruiting them.
“I didn’t know anything about South Dakota (except that) they played in one of the hardest conferences in the FCS,” Starling said in a Twitter message. “And it was in the middle of nowhere, almost by Canada.”
But Jackson and Starling visited the campus in Vermillion, S.D. (population: about 10,500), and fell in love. They both committed after their visits.
“The school was amazing,” said Starling, who is No. 27 on The Post’s Big Board. “A great feel for the environment and the people in the area. … The area is beautiful.”
Both Jackson and Starling said South Dakota’s academics were a big reason for choosing the school.
“We had a meeting about academics,” said Jackson, who plans to major in business and sports medicine and kinesiology. “It went really well, (I) learned a lot and they had what I wanted to further my education in.”
Both also said they liked that South Dakota is different from their hometowns in Palm Beach County.
“I like that it’s different,” Jackson said. “I have no problem being away from home. It’s just a sacrifice I have to make to get where I want to be in life.”
Although they’ll be away from home, they won’t be alone. They join former Palm Beach Central defensive lineman Luis Peguero, former Royal Palm Beach running back Shamar Jackson and several other players from around Florida in Vermillion. Plus, the two plan to room together next year, Starling said.
Although others have made the trip from the Sunshine State to South Dakota, Starling said some people are still skeptical.
“People asked me why did I pick South Dakota, but they were all excited for me and hyping me up,” he said.
How do they respond after he explains his choice?
“ ‘I feel you,’ ” Starling said. “ ‘Go show them how South Florida balls.’ ”