HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Josef Jackson has become somewhat of a celebrity at St. Patrick Catholic High School in Harrison County.
"Everybody comes up to me. I've gotten numerous hugs and hi-fives and everything today," said Josef.
The eighth grader certainly deserves all the attention. After all, he is Mississippi's Spelling Bee champ.
Josef captured the coveted title and trophy on Monday, after enduring more than 14 rounds and a grueling finale in Jackson. He won by spelling the word "nominative" correctly.
"It was so surreal because I was so sure the other girl I was competing against had gotten me," said Josef. "I was excited. Everybody said I kept my calm, but I just felt like I wanted to scream inside."
What an accomplishment for the 13-year-old. He is a straight-A student who enjoys reading, swimming, and playing the saxophone. He's also on the school's track team.
Despite his busy schedule, Josef says he practices spelling at least 30 minutes every day.
"I definitely get it from my mother," said Josef. "My father, he tells me you want the hillbilly pronunciation or the English or the hillbilly spelling or the English spelling?"
Josef and his military family moved to Biloxi only eight months ago. So I tried to stump him with some really tough words, like "Tchoutacabouffa."
"Ah, I remember driving by the sign and saying 'How do you pronounce that?' he said.
After a short pause, Josef started spelling the word: T-C-H-O-U-T-A-C-A-B-O-U-F-F-A.
Now, the word wizard must try to impress the judges in Washington, D.C. in May.
"I'm going to be studying a lot because I looked up some of the words they've given and I can't pronounce some of them," said Josef. "I'm glad I can represent St. Patrick and represent the whole state of Mississippi now."
School district leaders will host a reception this Friday to recognize Josef Jackson's outstanding achievement.