Vincent Jackson: Remembering A True Professional
It is not too often that you come across a person that embodies the true meaning of the word professional. However, that is exactly what former NFL WR Vincent Jackson was, a professional. Sometimes those true pros leave us way too early. That happened when the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced that Jackson had been found dead in his hotel room on February 15. Now that the tears have quit flowing, I would like to look back on the career of Jackson.
I had the fortunate honor of meeting Vincent Jackson when he was just beginning. You see, I had the honor of coaching him as a high school freshman at Widefield High School in Colorado Springs, CO. At the time, no one knew he would grow up to be a professional athlete. However, even then he embodied professionalism. He was a true teammate. He did what we asked of him both on and off the field.
Jackson was a stellar young athlete. He played multiple positions on our football team. He was also a basketball player for the school growing up. To go along with his athleticism, Jackson was a straight-A student in the classroom. His academics earned him acceptance into Columbia University. Nonetheless, Jackson would ultimately decide to take a partial scholarship to play both basketball and football at the University of Northern Colorado.
Vincent Jackson would continue to be a two-sport athlete at UNC. On the football field, Vince would set all-time records for receptions, receiving yards (both game and season), kick return yards, punt return yards, and receiving touchdowns. This would lead him to become the highest selected player from the University of Northern Colorado.
San Diego Chargers
The then San Diego Chargers (Los Angeles Chargers) would select Jackson in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He had a slow start to his NFL career due to injuries in his rookie season. He would only catch three balls that season.
Vincent Jackson’s first NFL touchdown would come in a game against the Tennessee Titans on September 17, 2006. It would come on a 12-yard pass from Philip Rivers to put the Chargers up 33-0 in the 4th quarter. The Chargers would win the game 40-7.
Jackson would finally earn a regular starting spot for the Chargers in 2007. He would finish that season with 41 catches on 80 targets. Amassing 623 yards and 3 TDs.
Vince Jackson would go on to play four more years with the team. Three out of those four seasons would see him collect 1,000+ yards receiving and two Pro Bowl selections.
Upon learning of his death the Chargers would release the following statement.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In the spring of 2012, Jackson signed a 5yr $55.55 million contract with the Buccaneers. He would be named captain and set Buccaneer single-game records for the longest play from scrimmage and longest reception (95 yards) along with receiving yards (216). This would all come in a game against the New Orleans Saints on October 21, 2012. This season would also net Jackson a new career-high in receptions with 72 and yards with 1,384. He would also see his third and final Pro Bowl selection following this season.
The 2013 campaign for the Buccaneers was not a good one. They were one of the worst teams in the league finishing the season with a mark of 4-12. Vincent Jackson would be one of the few bright spots on this team. He would see himself with a new career-high in receptions (78) at the end of the 2013 campaign.
2014 would see the emergence of rookie teammate Mike Evans. Jackson would be a great mentor for the young kid out of Texas A&M. Although Jackson would see a decrease in targets and receptions he still amassed over 1,000 yards receiving. As did Evans. They would set a franchise record of being the first receiving duo in history to amass over 1,000 yards receiving.
Vincent Jackson would go on to play two more seasons with Tampa Bay. Even though his 2016 season would be cut to only five games after suffering a knee injury in a game against the Carolina Panthers.
The Buccaneers also released a statement upon learning of Jackson’s passing.
Vince Jackson would officially retire from the NFL in 2018. During his time in Tampa, he started the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation. Coming from a military background, Jackson knew how hard it was on military children. He wanted to make a difference and offer them support so he started this foundation. The foundation’s mission is to “provide support to military families, focusing on the educational, emotional, and physical health of the children.” It is through this foundation that Jackson garnered a vast following in the community.
He would also sponsor military families at every Buccaneers’ home game by providing the Jackson in Action Front Row at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sadly, Jackson would be found dead on February 15, 2021, in a Homewood Suites in Brandon, FL. He had been staying there since January 11th. Jackson was the subject of a missing person’s report filed by his family. However, after authorities made contact with him days prior to his death, the report was canceled. There were no apparent signs of trauma resulting in Jackson’s death. An investigation is ongoing.
Jackson leaves behind a wife and three children.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff released the following regarding the situation.
It is not often the death of a professional athlete that brings you to tears. I have only shed tears twice upon hearing of an athlete’s passing. This one and the passing of Sean Taylor. This one still hurts as I write this piece.
RIH #83! You will be forever remembered.
What do you remember of Vincent Jackson? Leave a comment below.
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