Cover Story

Before he heads to Mizzou, Jahkai Lang wants another playoff run for Trojans


Troy Buchanan star defensive end Jahkai Lang is set to fulfill his goal of competing in the SEC after committing to play football at the University of Missouri.

After receiving multiple NCAA Division I offers, Lang committed to Mizzou at the end of his junior year. Lang was recruited at the beginning of his sophomore year and the recruiting process concluded at the end of his junior year with his commitment to Mizzou. Lang will fulfill his goal from his freshman year of playing in the SEC.

“I asked him in the weight room one day his freshman year. I said a pretty vague question about what’s your goal with football,” Troy Buchanan head football coach Ryan Nesbitt said. “And he looked at me and at that time he didn’t hardly talk at all and he just said ‘SEC.’ His focus level, his drive, what makes him tick on the inside has certainly been part of what’s gotten him where he’s at. He’s an incredibly self-disciplined kid.”

Mizzou was one of Lang’s first three offers. Lang credited the Mizzou staff for building a relationship with him. He also liked the proximity and that they compete in the SEC.

“Those guys, they really stay consistent,” Lang said. “Really built the relationship. I mean, even people like Coach (Eliah) Drink(witz). An SEC head coach calling you every week. They’re really telling you they want you. And it’s home. It’s right there. Everyone around here is Mizzou fans. It works out perfect — and it’s in the SEC.”

Lang, who led the Trojans with six sacks last season, intends to graduate this December and then participate in spring ball at Mizzou. He is looking forward to finishing his high school football career strong and then getting acclimated at Mizzou. Lang has trained with some players currently at Mizzou and is looking forward to getting to know the rest of the team this spring.

Lang is the first Power Five conference player Nesbitt has coached. Nesbitt noted Lang’s maturity level, which Nesbitt said is well beyond his years. Lang has been incredibly humble through the whole recruiting process.

“You wouldn’t know he’s garnered the attention that he’s got,” Nesbitt said. “I think he’s just focused on being a good teammate first and foremost; being a good high school football player. So it makes it easy to celebrate. He’s an easy one to be excited for and to celebrate those successes.”

Lang said the game has slowed down each of his first three years of his high school career.

“Freshman year, it was just like everyone was just stronger than me,” Lang said. “And then sophomore year, a lot of weight room stuff with us and I guess it got way easier last year, junior year. And then this year should be easier I’m guessing. The game slows down over the years; every year that you do it.”

Lang said while the recruiting process is what all high school players want, it can be stressful. He believes now that his decision has been made, he can focus even more on helping the Trojans as they look to compete for a state title.

Troy Buchanan advanced to the semifinals of the Class 6 state football tournament last season. They defeated Francis Howell 23-21 in the state quarterfinals to advance to the state semifinals. They lost to state runner-up Liberty North 35-21. The Trojans finished the season 10-3 after finishing with a losing record the previous season. Lang believes the Trojans have what it takes to compete for a state title this season.

“This year it’s everything. We’re going for state,” Lang said. “And I definitely think we’re one of the top four teams in Missouri for sure. I’d say top two really. It’s actually crazy because how much we lift compared to most other teams. A lot of these guys are really dedicated. Way dedicated, it’s crazy. Especially at six in the morning.”

Nesbitt believes the team’s experience of making it to the state semifinals last season will help the team in their state title quest this season. The returning players will be able to use that experience this season and also help other players know what to expect.

“Big stages and big moments, it was a huge environment,” Nesbitt said. “So for anybody that was part of it and experienced it firsthand, it’s going to play a factor again in the postseason next year. Just the maturity level of being focused on what it takes to get to that point.”