When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed wide receiver Vincent Jackson in the offseason they got more than just an elite receiver, they got a man who was going to make a difference in the community through his play on the field and his actions off of it.
Jackson spent much of his childhood in Louisiana. With both of his parents serving in the Army, he also spent some time living in Phoenix, Arizona and Grafenwöhr, Germany, before settling in Colorado Springs. Growing up as an Army brat, Jackson grew up with a different lifestyle than most. Traveling from city to city, he got an early look at what it meant to help out around the community and how each community was very different, but similar in the sense that there was help needed and work to be done.
“When I was about 7 or 8 years old we moved to Germany. We were there for about three years and I started maturing and understanding my surrounding when I was there,” explained Jackson. “My father and I would participate in some of the on-base activities like the 5K run that would benefit some of the local colleges, and clean-ups around the base where you would clean up the side of the roads or go and paint some walls, stuff like that,” he continued.
“This continued throughout the years and it has always been like a stepping-stone. When I got to high school I chose to be a member of our student council and we did a variety of things in the state of Colorado like visiting retirement homes and helping out around town.”
During his high school days he spent time cleaning rooms in a Super 8 Motel and sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Though he was working the odd job here and there and was involved in sports, he never let his grades slip and always kept his education as his main focus, despite excelling in both football and basketball.
“I graduated with a 4.1 GPA and went to school for business at Northern Colorado, so it wasn’t even until later in my college career that being a professional athlete was even a clear picture for me as something I can pursue,” said Jackson.
“That’s the biggest thing for me, when I get around kids I want them to have fun and enjoy what they’re doing, but it always comes back to the classroom.”
Once Jackson got to college he got a better understanding at how important sports really are to the local communities and to the entire nation. Playing both basketball and football in college, he got to work with many kids from the area and really got an eye opener as to how much of an impact sports can have on the local youth and the community.
“Once I got to college we did quite a few camps. Just being around the kids and seeing the joy that we can bring to the youth just by giving them some of our time is really what has launched me throughout my professional career. I thought about that during my time in San Diego and have continued to think about it here in Tampa,” stated the Chargers’ second round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
As someone who comes from a household that puts education first, Jackson hopes to instill that into the minds of today’s youth. He wants them to follow their dreams while getting an education at the same time because he feels it is the most important thing in life.
“The biggest thing about working with kids is the fact that you want them to focus on their education first. We all have dreams but I was always taught growing up that the chances of becoming a professional athlete are very, very small and it’s not like they are trying to crush your dream, they’re just telling you the reality about it and they’re being real and letting you know that it’s all about education and that should always come first and that’s how it was in my household.”
Vincent Jackson is currently working on starting up his own foundation. The Jackson in Action 83 Foundation is a Foundation that will dedicate their time and efforts to military families and children who are living like he did. He understands how important it is to help these children grow and as someone who grew up in the same shoes as them, he knows exactly what needs to be done to help them mature and grow as human beings. Aware of the military community in Tampa Bay, Jackson says that it helped play a role in him signing there in the offseason.
“I knew that when I signed with Tampa Bay that they had a pretty large military community and what the demographic out here is. I didn’t really have the tools out in San Diego to start what I want to do now, so I knew that once I got out here I wanted to be involved with the military and the youth,” stated Jackson.
“When I got out here I met some great people in Dr. Bill Sutton, Gregg Williams and Jamie Grant and they have been the head of my team since I got out here. It was a big deal for me to make a huge impact in the community, as well as on the football field. I believe that the platform we have as athletes can reach so much further and I really want to take advantage of that out here.”
Although Jackson was heavily involved in the community during his stint with the Chargers, starting his own Foundation and putting his name on everything is a whole new world for him. With him starting the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, Jackson is now able to direct his focus to the things he wants to help with in the community.
“Right now this (Foundation) is something that is completely new for me and this is a fresh start. In San Diego I was mostly involved in team things like toy drives and shoe drives, as well as visits to the Salvation Army and feeding the homeless,” described Jackson. “What im doing now in Tampa is a lot different from that, it’s my own thing and something that I wanted to do for a while and it’s very exciting and I’ve learned a lot so far. We’re going to have a great time doing it and I think it’s something that will be very successful in terms of how many people we touch. I would love to see this kind of program and the things we will be doing get picked up around the country and be a nationwide thing.”
Jackson is hoping that through his Foundation he can help touch the lives of many children and families everywhere, not just in Tampa Bay. He understands that everything is a process, so for now he plans on focusing on the children in the community he currently calls home. –
“The immediate goal is the children with deployed parents right here in Tampa Bay, making sure they have great aspects and tools to communicate with their mom and dad and letting them know that even though their parents are going to be gone for a long time, they are loved and they are missed. We just want to play that big brother or big sister role for these kids and be the role models they need around,” he elucidated.
“We want to give the kids and the families some clear communication tools because that’s the most important thing. You don’t want the kids to have their parents go overseas for so long and not communicate with their loved ones back home because they come back home and end up feeling like a stranger because it’s been so long,” he continued. “We want the kids to feel good and keep them healthy and motivated to continue to learn and grow as people.”
One of the things Jackson has already started doing through his Foundation and the Buccaneers organization is donating tickets to military families for the Buccaneers home games. Every home game he hands out around 25 tickets in the first and second rows to the families who have been reunited with a loved one who was overseas.
“As excited as I am for the game, I’m always excited to see them at the games because I know exactly where my section is so I have to take a peak when we come out before the warm-ups and even throughout the game,” Jackson said joyfully.
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do a great job recognizing the different charities throughout the stadium and you get to see the joy on their faces, whether it be the kids or the parents, they’re just having a great time and it’s a great experience to not only be at an NFL game but to be with their loved ones at something so big and something they probably dreamed about for a long time and to do that is something that means a lot to me. I get letters from the kids and the parents and it’s something that I love, it’s something that truly touches me.”
Just like the excitement that runs through his body every week before a game, the same feeling runs through him when he gets the chance to help someone and do something that he loves. He hopes that he’ll be able to influence the children to follow their dreams and help them work hard in school and get a good education.
“You have to dream big and to become an athlete you have to have big goals and set your standards high. I think we’ll be able to make an impact immediately in this Tampa Bay community and once we establish what we want to see we will start to expand our mission and our arms in the amount of people that we’re touching. We want to stay focused in the Tampa Bay community. The greater Tampa area is going to be our initial approach and from there the sky is the limit,” said the two-time Pro Bowler.
“I believe that this Foundation can join up with a lot of other existing entities and help our military veterans enjoy the things that we enjoy everyday of our lives and make their living a little easier,” he concluded.
Vincent Jackson will continue to work hard to achieve his goals and he won’t slow down until he accomplishes exactly what he wants to. He has already made an impact both on and off the field in Tampa Bay and he’s just getting started.
To learn more about the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, visit http://www.jacksoninaction83.org/