There are “pro’s” and there are professionals. Additionally, there are principal players and there are true leaders. There are those who stand out on the field and work hard to do the same off it. Vincent Jackson was a great player, leader, and teammate. His contributions to the team and the Tampa Bay area will never be forgotten.
The Player: College
Hailing from Colorado, Jackson found few suiters for his talents on the football field. Eventually, he decided to attend the University of Northern Colorado. While there he earned himself multiple accolades. Jackson made a name for himself right off the bat as he scored the very first time he touched the ball. The All-American set school records as a wide receiver and returner, eventually drawing the eye of the NFL.
The Player: San Diego Chargers
In the 2005 draft, Jackson heard his name called by the San Diego Chargers in the second round, 61st overall. Part of the lure for the Chargers was his measurables. Standing in at 6’5’’ and 230 pounds he was an imposing wide receiver. Couple that with 4.46 speed and a 39-inch vertical, he had the makings of an impact player.
The 2005 season was a learning process. With injuries and little on the stat line to live up to a second-round grade, he looked to turn his fortune around. His rookie year could’ve been what solidified him to become the professionalism he eventually became. His dedication is what would soon become hallmarks of his career.
As his career progressed, the better Jackson became. With an ever-increasing role with the Chargers’ offense, he emerged as a true threat. In his last four years as a Charger, Jackson had three seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving. After contract disputes in 2011, Jackson would soon find a new home. He would end his time in San Diego with 4,754 yards, 37 touchdowns, all while averaging 17.5 yards a reception. During his time as a Charger, he earned two Pro Bowl selections.
The Player: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On March 13th, 2012, Jackson became a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As quickly as he showed up, teammates and the staff alike recognized his leadership. His professionalism became a moniker in the locker room. As he exited San Diego, he entered Tampa Bay with over 1,000 yards receiving. His 2012 campaign would be his best of his career. He would be selected to the Pro-Bowl in the same year.
In 2013 and 2014, Jackson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. An amazing effort given the lackluster quarterback play and abysmal effort team-wide. In total, the Buccaneers mustered only six wins those two years. With Mike Evans drafted in 2014, the pair both managed over 1,000 yards each. A true feat given the team’s struggles.
The 2015 and 2016 seasons saw a decline in Jackson’s abilities. His injuries kept him on the sideline as he only appeared in 15 games over the course of those two seasons. Additionally, the emergence of Evans cut down on Jacksons’ targets. The writing was on the wall. His playing time was coming to an end.
After sitting out a season and the 2018 season in full swing, Jackson announced his retirement. His career stat line reads as follows: 9,080 yards, 57 touchdowns, 431 first downs, all on 540 receptions.
Super Bowl LV
With Mike Evans on the field, there is no doubt that there was some part of Vincent Jackson there as well. If you would ask Mike, I am willing to bet that he studied Jackson and emulated his professionalism and his work ethic. Jackson won that night too, even though he was not present on the field.
More importantly than stats, Jackson earned four consecutive nominations from the Buccaneers for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. This is no small feat. His outreach in the community and for military families was and is phenomenal. The mission of the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation is stated as “to provide support to military families, focusing on the educational, emotional, and physical health of the children.” This comes from Jackson’s own life experience as a military child himself. They do this through various means such as outreach events, annual programs, and other activities.
“Danny DogTags” Children’s Books sets out to educate children and parents about the feelings and issues that arise during military deployments through a series of books.
Military Moms Baby Shower has aided military mothers who are expecting and/or just delivered. This event has grown each year since its inception in 2014.
Youth in Action Camp is an annual event that gets military children together to teach and encourage kids about remaining healthy and active through unique military family challenges.
Salute to Reading Program is facilitating and encouraging reading at Ballast Point, Chiaramonte, and Tinker Elementary schools. This program continues to give children encouragement to improve their reading ability and emphasized educational health.
Salute to Scholars gives two scholarships a year to seniors in high school who come from military families.
Front Row Fans Allows for 24 military members and their families to attend home games in Raymond James Stadium.
As you can see Jackson has a huge place in his heart for military members and their families. His work has and will continue to serve the community. His impact will be felt for generations by grateful military families.
On A Personal Note
I can say I felt Jacksons’ love for service members myself. While I was deployed to Afghanistan, I found myself catching a glimpse of a flyer that was passed out on one of the bases. I immediately noticed Jackson as being a participant. I knew I needed to find my way to their location.
To give a glimpse of how much of a Buccaneers fan I am, I always travel with a Buccaneers flag. No matter where I go or how desolate, I have it with me. With a large crowd gathering around to see all the USO tour players I waved my flag high and was able to make my way over to Jackson. He immediately saw the flag, gave me a “Bro Hug” and without hesitation signed the flag for me. That flag hangs in my office right now for all my Marines to see when they come in.
“What a privilege it is to join the USO in supporting our brave men and women deployed thousands of miles away from home,” said Jackson. “Their courage and commitment make the American way possible. I want to personally thank Admiral Winnefeld for inviting me on this journey and I salute the USO for their efforts to bring home away from home to our troops.”
God Bless you, Vincent Jackson, Rest In Peace. Our prayers are with you and your family. A true Buccaneer great and an amazing man, you will be missed!