PurpleStride New Jersey Walk-Run – November 9, 2014


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Purple Stride



The Northern New Jersey Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is Raising Funds and Awareness for the Fourth Leading Cause of Cancer Death in the United States in Parsippany

PARSIPPANY, NJ – (September 27, 2014) — More than 2,000 people will walk and run to raise funds and awareness about pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, at PurpleStride New Jersey on November 9.

PurpleStride New Jersey” is meant as a day of hope and inspiration for people who have been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer as well as a tribute to people who have passed away from this devastating disease,” said Sandi Field, the Affiliate Chair for the Northern New Jersey Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Money raised helps fund personalized support for patients, their families and caregivers, as well as supporting research that will hopefully lead to better treatment options to increase survival for pancreatic cancer patients.

“We are proud to join tens of thousands of people across the country who are taking part in more than 50 PurpleStride events this year. We all share one common goal – to end pancreatic cancer.”

The event is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and will take place at the Mack-Cali Business Campus in Parsippany. Participants have their choice of walking or running a timed race on a flat course. It will also include music, face painters, family-friendly activities, and refreshments throughout the day. Carla Marie, Producer of the Z-100 Elvis and the Morning Show, will once again serve as emcee. For event details and to register, visit http://www.purplestride.org/newjersey

Pancreatic Cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all major cancers – 73 percent die within one year of diagnosis and the five-year survival rate is just six percent. A recent report indicates that pancreatic cancer is anticipated to move from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States by 2020.

PurpleStride New Jersey will benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure.

This year, more than 46,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and nearly 39,500 will die from the disease. This devastating disease has claimed the lives of many public figures, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, actor Patrick Swayze, first American woman in space, Sally Ride, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Ralph Steinman, Carnegie Mellon Professor Dr. Randy Pausch, actor Michael Landon, opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti and William Jackson, father of Washington Redskin, DeSean Jackson.

To learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Northern New Jersey Affiliate, visit http://www.pancan.org. Follow us: http://www.facebook.com/jointhefight and Twitter – @PancanNJ

About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. The organization is leading the way to change outcomes for people diagnosed with this devastating disease through a bold initiative — The Vision of Progress: Double the Survival for Pancreatic Cancer by 2020. Together, we can know, fight and end pancreatic cancer by intensifying our efforts to heighten awareness, raise funds for comprehensive private research, and advocate for dedicated federal research to advance early diagnostics, better treatments and increase chances of survival.
Todd Cohen
Media Chair, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Northern New Jersey Affiliate
Email: tcohen@pancanvolunteer.org –Direct: (732) 397-8601
About the DeSean Jackson Foundation
The DeSean Jackson Foundation was founded in 2009 after, William (Bill) Jackson, DeSean’s father died from Pancreatic Cancer. After Bill’s passing, DeSean and his family established The DeSean Jackson Foundation. The purpose of this organization is to utilize the popularity that DeSean has gained as a NFL player to raise awareness and educate the public about Pancreatic cancer. DeSean’s mother, Mrs. Gayle Jackson, is President and co-–founder of the group. Gayle says, “We created the foundation to increase awareness about Pancreatic Cancer and raise money to allow doctors and researchers to do what they need to do to find a cure. We don’t want another person to lose a loved one to this dreadful disease. DeSean is unique because he has a voice and he can get the word out and people will listen.” Our Mission is: To advance the common good by caring, cultivating, collaborating and advocating–One Team, One Purpose.   Mrs. Jackson appeals to DeSean’s fans to support the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s “Purple Stride” in Parsippany, New Jersey and the 49 other cities throughout the nation.

DeSean Jackson, Chief Executive Officer and Gayle Jackson, President
The DeSean Jackson Foundation, Mrs. Gayle Jackson, President, c/o 8605 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069
Email: deseanjacksonfoundationceo@yahoo.com–Web-Page: http://www.deseanjacksonfoundation.org

DeAngelo Hall Gives DeSean Jackson Custom Cleats for Breast Cancer Awareness Month


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DeAngelo Hall Gives DeSean Jackson Custom Cleats for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

[Custom Sneakers, Post Reprinted by The DeSean Jackson Foundation]

Although talented defensive back DeAngelo Hall of the Washington Redskins is sidelined for the rest of the 2014 season, his generosity hasn’t deterred as he provided his ‘Skins teammate DeSean Jackson a custom pair of Breast Cancer Awareness Cleats. Utilizing the Nike Huarache 4 LE TD as a base model, the dezcustoms creation surely provided Jackson a much-needed boost as he turned-in a stellar performance against the Seattle Seahawks during Week Five’s Monday Night Football game. Furthermore, DeAngelo Hall provided his Instagram followers, with previews of various customs within his arsenal.


Our Sincere Thanks to Kevin Durant…..


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Our sincere thanks to hometown hero, Kevin Durant, NBA, Most Valuable Player, for supporting the Washington Redskins.

Kevin Durant, NBA, MVP and Gayle, President, The DeSean Jackson Foundation

Kevin Durant, NBA, MVP and Gayle, President, The DeSean Jackson Foundation

We hope you will come back home to Washington to play for the Wizards in 2016 when you become a free agent.

Gayle Jackson
The DeSean Jackson Foundation

Second Annual Salute to Play 60 – Fort Belvoir


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October 1, 2014


The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, the Department of Defense and supporting sponsor USAA, an Official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the Redskins, hosted the second-annual Salute to Play 60 event at Fort Belvoir for hundreds of youth participants from various military installations.

Washington Redskins’players volunteered their Tuesday “Community Service Day” to motivate and participate in fitness and nutrition activites. In attendance were quarterback, Robert Griffin III, running back. Alfred Morris, fullback, Darrel Young, wide receiver, Ryan Grant, tight end, Niles Paul, offensive lineman, Shawn Lauvao, defensive lineman. Jason Hatcher, linebacker Trent Murphy and safety, Akeem Davis.

Mrs. Dan Snyder and Our Military Heroes

Mrs. Dan Snyder and Our Military Heroes

Joining the players were Tanya Snyder, wife of owner Dan Snyder, WOW Wives, Gayle Jackson, mother of wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, the First Ladies of Football and Nike Trainer Deanna Jefferson.

Gayle Jackson, A Military Hero, and Our Beautiful Cheerleaders

Gayle Jackson, Our Military Hero, Washington Redskins’ Cheerleaders

Kicking off the event was a VIP meet and greet between the players and senior military leadership, followed a check donation presentation of $5,000 each to Air Force, Navy, Army and Marine Corps youth programs on behalf of WRCF.


It was an AWESOME, fun-filled event that provided the participants with the tools to lead healthy lifestyles.




DeSean Jackson to be Honored by the Hall of Fame


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Posted by Stephen Czarda on October 1, 2014 – 3:06 pm [Reprinted by The DeSean Jackson Foundation on 10/1/2014 - 8:45 P.M.]

DeSean Jackson, Nate Allen
(AP Image)

After a breathtaking 81-yard touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles — his former team – Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson will have the jersey and gloves that he wore during the game showcased in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pro Football Today Room.


DeSean Jackson became only the third player in NFL history – Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Joyner and Art Powell being the others – with an 80-yard touchdown catch both for and against a team.

Below are photos of the jersey and gloves at Redskins Park before being sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame:


DeSean Jackson: One Of One Clothing Launch


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DeSean Jackson, CEO, of The DeSean Jackson Foundation, and NFL All Pro with the Washington Redskins recently announced that he will be launching his casual line of high-end Tee shirts on his brand, One of One Clothing.

Coming Soon!

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Please forward any inquiries for bulk purchases and wholesale pricing to:

DeSean Jackson

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DeSean Jackson can remake reputation with Redskins — if he wants to


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By Todd Dybas – The Washington Times – Wednesday, September 3, 2014

DeSean Jackson was born in Hollywood, then made for the NFL by fate, family and friends while growing up in South Central Los Angeles. There are people who are from there and those who most decidedly are not.

Gangs fester where Jackson lived. Tattoos flood his body, including the phrase “Fear none,” which runs vertically on the side of his neck, tucked just behind an ear lobe. He’s often decorated by gold. He eats birthday cakes that are designed to look like a stack of $100 bills.

This persona makes him appear a product of central casting. It also makes the narrative about who he is easy. Perhaps, too much so.

When the Philadelphia Eagles released Jackson in March after the wide receiver’s best season as a professional, the stories — rumors and flat-out lies to some — came. Jackson’s loyalty to his inner-city friends appeared to have finally caught up to him. The Eagles were worried about Jackson’s gang ties, the stories said, and they sent him away.

Here is where Jackson, signed by the Redskins five days later, becomes an unwitting social experiment. Character assumptions are made. Tie-ins are reached for. There is some smoke, but the fire, it won’t take. Yet, the smoke continues to puff. So, he shuts down. He knows this is an avalanche he can’t push back at. Interviews are few. Answers are not forthcoming.

Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) runs past Cleveland Browns strong safety Donte Whitner (31) in the first quarter as the Washington Redskins play the Cleveland Browns in NFL preseason football at FedExField, Landover, Md., Monday, August 18, 2014. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

“Sometimes, things that you go through growing up or witness can have you in a shell and kind of be like distant from a lot of people,” Jackson said. “That’s the biggest thing I can say about coming from the areas we come from. Lot of times it’s hard to trust people. You have to get an understanding for what people’s motives are. It’s just a part of growing and living. A part of life.”

Once the gang stories attributed to anonymous sources died down, others from anonymous players sprang. News stories said Jackson was a bad teammate who did not buy into the specific and somewhat radical ways of new Eagles coach Chip Kelly. It wasn’t the gangs that led to his release, they said. It was his selfishness.

Which leaves Jackson, a three-time Pro-Bowler and one of the fastest receivers in the league, a curiosity. He has a chance to redefine his public persona while with the Redskins. Silence and touchdowns can help get him there. It’s unclear if he cares to.

‘That stuff was totally not true’

“After careful consideration during this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson. The team informed him of his release today.”

The statement was simple and fully loaded. For the first time, Jackson was pushed aside by a football team.

The anonymous pounding followed. During that time, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was in Los Angeles for promotional work. Concerned, and interested in recruiting, he went to see Jackson and had dinner at his house.

“He got cut by Philly and they were spreading lies about him,” Griffin said. “We sat there and had dinner and talked about everything. I could see the hurt and everything in his face. DeSean is a guy from L.A., an area with a little bit of edge. I mean it’s basically the ‘hood. People are afraid to say it, but it’s the ‘hood.”

The reports about Jackson would have angered and stunned his father, Bill.

Jackson is the product of his hard-driving father who started pushing him toward athletics when he was scrawny and 5 years old. Bill Jackson pushed his son through high school, when DeSean starred at prep powerhouse Long Beach Polytechnic, then was a thorn in the side of California coach Jeff Tedford when Jackson was in college.

Jackson’s father and inner circle of handlers/trainers were so hands-on — and at times abrasive — that minutes after Jackson was drafted, then-Eagles coach Andy Reid called and informed Jackson he didn’t want any problems from his father or the others.

Bill died of pancreatic cancer in 2009. He at least saw his son achieve what was long his father’s dream.
Jackson’s mother, Gayle, read the stories about her son this spring. They decided little could be done to counter the budding perception. Jackson released a statement at the time saying he was not and never has been a gang member. Otherwise, they chose not to “fight fire with fire.”

“That was pretty shocking,” Gayle said. “That was all the superlatives you could think of. That was a real wake-up call probably is what it was. I try to not let things worry me. That you couldn’t help let worry you because you never want your child or anybody you love portrayed in a bad light. So, when I heard that, those stories and accusations were disturbing.

“I also knew that you can’t please the world. You can’t please everybody and I can’t go explaining to the whole world, my son’s not like that. But what I did kind of settle in on, and find comfort from, was the fact that I know the people who know DeSean know the truth. For all those other people that don’t know the truth, that’s real sad.

“In this case, where they were making up all these allegations that there were gang ties and all that stuff that stuff was totally not true.”

In addition to thrusting DeSean into sports, Bill would embrace other kids in the neighborhood. If they needed a place to stay, they could stay with him. If they needed a ride to Little League because their parents worked late, he would pick them up. The latter was the case for Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

Sherman grew up in Watts. Bill, often referred to as “Pop,” would give him a ride to Holly Park Little League games where he and DeSean were teammates. The offseason reports of Jackson’s alleged gang ties rankled Sherman.

“I feel like people are going to make the assumptions they are going to make regardless,” Sherman said. “I think there are a number of players in the NFL you could make that case for, myself included.”

At Redskins training camp in Richmond, Jackson was among the players pictured on signage during the walk into the facility. Most were smiling. Jackson’s face is stern, just short of a sneer. The photo is representative of the edge Jackson carries, something Sherman says is crucial to crawling out of the inner-city crab bucket.

“I think that it’s a real cut throat environment that we come from,” Sherman said. “It’s a real dog-eat-dog world. People joke about it and talk about it like they know, but you don’t know unless you’re there. To make it out of there, you have to have a certain mentality. You have to have a certain mindset. You can’t trust a lot of things you hear and a lot of people because a lot of times you’ll be setup for failure.”

Though Jackson is the only player from Los Angeles on the roster, he had one friend already in Washington. Left tackle Trent Williams got to know Jackson at this year’s Pro Bowl. He told Jackson how he would love to play with him. The thought of his speed, his ability to bust a big play in an instant, made Williams giddy.

They exchanged numbers and kept in touch. Not long after, the reports came out.

“I didn’t validate it,” Williams said. “That’s the first time anybody’s heard that and it just so happen to come after he got released for some odd reason. I don’t know. There’s something more to that situation which I don’t really care to speak about.

“I never felt like I needed to have a conversation with him. The media — society in general — they’re always looking for something. Especially when you’re down. They’re going to try to kick you when you’re down.”

‘The kid next door’

There is football and karma — fate, the preordained, however you take it — to be talked about with Jackson joining the Redskins. Gayle and Bill were raised in Pittsburgh. Because of its proximity to Washington, they had family ties in D.C. DeSean Jackson was even dedicated in a D.C. church as a baby.

Asked to describe her son, Gayle is somewhat stumped. Not because she doesn’t know him head to toe, but because her vision of him is not that of others.

“He’s just DeSean,” she says.

Getting to know exactly who that is can be a challenge. Jackson’s whole life was designed around the prospect of athletic success. A speed coach worked on his stride, former NFL players taught him route breaks. In high school, he flew to Kansas City Chiefs training camp in River Falls, Wisconsin, where he caught passes from Dick Vermeil and began to believe he belonged.

He was a two-time All-American at Cal, then sat filled with anguish as the first round of the 2008 NFL draft clicked by without his name called.

After Philadelphia finally picked him 49th overall, his ascension was rapid. In 2009, he became the first player in NFL history to be named a Pro Bowl starter at two positions when he was put on the NFC team as a wide receiver and punt returner. Again last season, he went to the Pro Bowl after 82 catches for 1,332 yards marked career highs.

Aligning him with the last season’s league leader in receptions, Pierre Garcon, gives the Redskins one of the best receiver combinations in the league. Jackson’s speed alone should provide extra operating space for Garcon and others.

That’s where Jackson and his family are hopeful the story arcs now: Back to football. Around to his appearances at the Manassas Boys and Girls Club and his effort to spread an anti-bullying message.

Jackson isn’t doing much talking. At camp in Richmond, he briskly walked off the field while giving reporters few quotes. At times, he looked alone during practice, in the standard pose of a resting football player with one knee on the ground and the opposite hand gripping a facemask to use a helmet as a balance point.

Desperate manicuring of his public persona does not seem a priority. Gayle is in town to help run his foundation and, though DeSean talks about doing community work, the topic is not overwhelming as if they are on an image rehabilitation assignment.

“DeSean is just like the kid next door,” Gayle said. “Your brother, your cousin, your uncle. He’s regular. He’s no different. He just happens to have attained a level and attained a status not a whole lot of people reach. He’s the same person he was before he got the fame. He just happens to have more people paying attention to what he’s doing now.”

Jackson’s contract is slated to keep him in Washington for three seasons. Three years to let his personality out, if he chooses. Three years to make the Pro Bowl and maybe begin to trust more.

For now, Jackson will be guarded.

“It’s hard to take respect from those people that don’t give it,” Jackson said. “If you’re offering that and are willing to give it, I think coming on the other side, maybe we could appreciate that a little more. So we just kind of have to figure out, like I say, how a person is coming off and what their motives are is the biggest thing. Until you kind of figure out that, you kind of got to be distant.”

About the Author
Todd Dybas is a sports writer at the Washington Times. He has covered the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and NCAA Div. I athletics. Dybas is a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. A St. Bonaventure University graduate, he began his career in upstate New York before making stops in Boston and Seattle. He can be reached …

Follow @Todd_Dybas

DeSean Jackson, Back Pack Give-a-Way at Boys and Girls Club, Manassas, VA


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August 25, 2014

The first annual, DJACC Back Pack Give-A-Way, was held at the Boys and Girls Club, Manasas, VA, today. Over 250 NIKE book bags with school supplies were distributed to youth who were surprised by DeSean Jackson, of the Washington Redskins, and his mother, Gayle Jackson, President, of the DeSean Jackson Foundation.









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164,789 Washington Redskin Fans Attend 2014 Skins’ Training Camp



The Washington Redskins, Community Relations Department, reports that 164,789 fans at an average of 10,986/day attended the 2014 training camp. Gayle Jackson, President, of the DeSean Jackson Foundation went to several sessions and was welcomed and embraced by the “AWESOME” Washington Redskin management, staff, media and loyal fan base. #HTTR




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DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskin, Graces the Cover of ESPN “Come Back” Issue


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Congratulations to our CEO, DeSean Jackson, who graces the cover of the ESPN Magazine, “Come Back Issue”. – The DeSean Jackson Foundation Staff.


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DeSEAN JACKSON HAS an interesting linguistic tic that surfaces whenever he talks about things of the “illegal” or “unsavory” or “criminal” variety. After parking his lengthy two-tone Rolls-Royce outside an East Hollywood café one day in late May, Jackson ambles in and begins speaking about his relationships with “certain people” who do “certain things.” People presumably involved in potentially illegal or dangerous activity are “certain people.” Things that may be done outside the parameters of the law are “certain things.” Combined with his habit of speaking softly, as if to avoid the prying of eavesdroppers, this intentionally vague use of “certain” makes clear that Jackson, 27, is a man working hard to avoid giving ammunition to those who would seek to destroy him with his own words.

Straight outta Philly

How Jackson went from rumors to released to redeemed in six days.

Sitting down next to me, wearing a cotton T-shirt, sweatpants and a flat-brim, he crosses his arms, which boast a considerable assortment of black-ink tattoos. Most of the images and words are difficult to make out, but two things are clear: First, running almost the entirety of Jackson’s right forearm is the Hollywood sign, an immediate reminder that, despite his many football-related travels, Los Angeles will always be Jackson’s home. Second, across the backs of both hands, in delicate and loopy cursive, is a two-part mantra you can read when Jackson brings his fists together at the knuckles: “No Struggle, No Progress.”

It’s maybe not the most unique sentiment for someone in high-level sports, in which sweat and hustle through hardship are professional obligations. But Jackson is more familiar with struggle than most. Earlier this year, after coming off the most successful season of his professional career, with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, Jackson was cut from the Eagles, his first and only NFL team since joining the league in 2008. Though he signed a $24 million deal with Washington just six days later, the shock waves from his release lingered, exacerbated by the maelstrom of confusing and contrasting rumors that Jackson was cut because he had gang ties.

Attempting to find the true story behind the speculation reveals the primary tension at the heart of the turmoil, a tension that has implications for how the league will do business in the coming years: Jackson likes to believe his life began the day he was born, while some people would rather he pretend it began the day he joined the NFL.

IF YOU TALK to those in DeSean’s inner circle, backroom rumors of gang connections plagued Jackson even before he joined the Eagles. His mother, Gayle, says the family has long suspected that anxiety about such gossip — along with concerns about a “difficult” (read: overbearing) family — is what caused DeSean to fall to the second round in 2008 after mock drafts had him going in the first. “Definitely,” Gayle says, “his associations and affiliations were always a subject of fear.”

To understand the origins of those associations, one needs to go back a few decades, to Pittsburgh, where DeSean’s father, Bill Jackson, was raised. Growing up, Bill was always desperate to play sports, but he was forbidden by his own dad, who valued labor over athletics. “He was a huge fan of baseball and track and stuff like that,” says DeSean, “but he was never able to play, because his dad was making him work at the steel mill.”

Bill Jackson spent two decades trying to get his son to the NFL.

After Bill’s father died in 1979, Bill and Gayle moved to Southern California to start over. When Bill’s eldest son, Byron, graduated from high school in 1986, Bill moved him from the Washington, D.C., area, where he’d been living with his mother (Bill’s first wife), to LA so he could play football year-round. Byron, who had displayed some athletic talent but was never a star football player, says his dad was “determined” to see him play in the NFL, so much so that Bill used to close his letters to Byron during his high school years with “Think NFL!!!” DeSean was born in December of that year.

With hard work and a lot of pushing from Bill, Byron eventually became a wide receiver at San Jose State. After college, he got picked up for the Chiefs’ practice squad, but he washed out after two seasons. He tried his hand at the Canadian Football League and the World League of American Football (NFL Europa), but his heart wasn’t in it anymore. “I was more doing it for my dad than anything else,” says Byron, now 46 and an editor at Fox Sports.

When Byron finally broke it to his father that he was abandoning his attempts to play professional football in 1994, Bill grew angry and began throwing Byron’s clothes onto the street. According to a documentary Byron made about DeSean, the two began to scuffle, and the argument got so out of hand that Bill wound up pointing a handgun in his son’s face. Byron left the house, telling Bill he never wanted to see him again.

From then on, Bill began focusing all his efforts on DeSean. Since he was 5 years old, 4-foot-nothing and 40 pounds, DeSean had been a sight to behold: thin enough that it looked like his pads might slip right off but faster than everyone else on the field. When he threw his head back on a run, as if the force of the wind were too much to bear, that’s when you knew he was gone.

Even today, you’d be forgiven for not immediately presuming Jackson is a football star. He’s all muscle but also lean, at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. At lunch at the East Hollywood café, he only nibbles at his chicken sandwich and potato chips, supplementing them with a few bites of a friend’s breakfast burrito. He’s quick to tell people size doesn’t matter. “I was always the smallest,” he says, “but I’ve always been one of the fastest and the best.”

It was DeSean’s talent that brought Byron and Bill Jackson back together after two years of not speaking. “I knew he was going to push my little brother the same way he pushed me,” says Byron. “DeSean had a passion for football at an early age. I knew I had to come back to help my dad lead DeSean.”

When DeSean was 8, Byron tapped a network of friends to comprise DeSean’s personal training camp, which they eventually began calling Team Jackson. But even with a team of adults guiding him, the path was tough. Jackson says his parents’ jobs — Bill was a bus driver, Gayle was an assistant at a record label — “just barely put food on the dinner table.” His mom and dad split when he was 7, and his mother relocated to Atlanta. Though DeSean went to live with her briefly during her first year in Georgia, Gayle ultimately agreed to let him move back with his father; she thought it was important for him to have the “male mentorship” Bill and Team Jackson provided.


By then, Bill was living in South Central, a neighborhood that became synonymous with gangs and violence in the 1980s and ’90s. DeSean says he was only 12 when he saw another boy get gunned down in a drive-by. Bill decided to enroll his son at Long Beach Polytechnic High, the best football school in Southern California. The commute was an hour each way and involved a walk through various gang territories, a bus ride and then a train ride through rough neighborhoods to downtown Long Beach. “On a daily basis I witnessed a lot of violence, a lot of drug abuse,” Jackson says.

To protect his son, Bill would often wait outside the train station for DeSean in the evenings. “His dad was like white on rice with that boy,” Gayle says. “Buddy, you had best believe when it was time to get off that train his dad was right there.”

It’s easy to read about Jackson’s upbringing and make assumptions about his involvement in a gang. But according to Jackson and those closest to him, life in the neighborhood was more complex than many care to understand.

“When I was young, I hung out with and knew certain people who were involved in certain things,” says Jackson at the lunch table, that tic rising to the surface again. “But at the same time, they knew I played sports, so they supported me in playing sports.”

“It’s the same story with most kids growing up in the inner city,” Byron says. “There’s that one kid who’s athletic as heck and everybody sees he’s destined to be great. So the guys involved in mischievous things want to stay cool with him, but at the same time they don’t want to derail him.”

In Jackson’s interactions with “certain people” who did “certain things” during his childhood, there was an unwritten agreement: DeSean was going places, and so he had their blessing to avoid the paths they’d chosen. In return, he would not look down on them or turn his back on them. In fact, if you ask Gayle Jackson, she’ll tell you DeSean’s loyalty is one of his most frustrating qualities.

“Those guys gravitated toward him because he had structure in his life,” she says. “A lot of time I was trying to chase these cats away. I told him it would catch up with him and that people don’t understand, so he should leave those guys alone. He told me, ‘Mom, you can’t treat people like that.”

HERE IS WHAT DeSean Jackson will say about the gang rumors: Does he know people in gangs? Yes. Does he associate with “certain people” from time to time? Yes. Is he in a gang himself? No, nor has he ever been. The “troubling associations” described in an NJ.com article on March 28, the day Jackson was released, centered largely on his relationship with Theron Shakir, a rapper signed to Jackson’s Jaccpot Records music label. (Jackson raps as a hobby.) In 2010, Shakir and a man named Marques Binns were arrested and charged with a gang-related homicide. Shakir was acquitted of the crime in 2013, and Binns, who was convicted and is now serving 15 years to life, told NJ.com that he does not know DeSean Jackson.

The site also pointed to a 2012 incident in which someone was shot and killed after a party at a South LA building leased by a member of Jackson’s family. Jackson was nowhere near the building at the time of the shooting, but a search of the premises turned up some receipts, a gun permit and other documents belonging to him — hardly incriminating evidence of his involvement. (Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters Jackson was cut only for football reasons.)

The other thing that’s bound to arise in any discussion of Jackson’s background is that he throws up gang signs in pictures on social media, in his rap videos and during games. “Those were neighborhood Crip gang signs,” an LA police detective told NJ.com, referencing some hand movements he’d seen Jackson make once in a game against the Redskins. While Jackson won’t call them gang signs, he will admit to throwing up “hand gestures” in a display of that stubborn loyalty his mother describes. “If I score a touchdown or make a play and my boys at home can see me throwing up the area we’re from, that’s me showing them love,” he says. “They weren’t fortunate enough to make it where I’m at. All my friends wanted to be in the NFL growing up, but they weren’t able to do that and I was. That doesn’t mean I forgot about them. They’re my boys, I grew up with them, and I’m going to give them love.”

He’s been dogged by other “maturity questions” — reports of missed meetings, his occasional trolling of LeBron James on social media and a grievance filed by agent Drew Rosenhaus alleging Jackson failed to repay $400,000 in loans. (Jackson alleges the payments were illegal bribes.) But if everyone agrees that he never broke any laws or NFL regulations, then the overriding concern surrounding Jackson boils down to some people’s discomfort with his ongoing connections to his roots. Rather than taking Instagram photos with the likes of Theron Shakir, the thinking seems to go, Jackson should be distancing himself from his past, not broadcasting it. Never mind that Shakir was acquitted of any wrongdoing. Never mind that this thinking requires Jackson to behave as if the first 18 years of his life were void of real relationships and authentic experiences. Long-standing connections, normal and healthy for everyone else, are “troubling” when it comes to Jackson.

IT DOESN’T HELP Jackson’s case that since June of last year, prosecutors have handed down two separate murder indictments against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is rumored to be affiliated with the Bloods. But according to Harry Edwards, a professor emeritus of sociology at UC Berkeley who also serves as a consultant for the 49ers, the NFL’s gang worries are just beginning.

To explain why, Edwards points to a shift in player demographics — two-thirds of current NFL players are black, compared with 12 percent in 1959. He thinks that shift is only going to escalate, in part because of the epidemic of brain injuries that already has wealthier white families shuffling their sons away from the sport’s risks. An HBO Real Sports/Marist poll from October of last year showed that 66 percent of Americans with a household income of $50,000 or more had heard a great deal or a good amount about football head injuries, compared with just 47 percent earning less. The same poll showed that 20 percent of nonwhites had heard nothing about football-related concussions, compared with 12 percent of whites. “In a decade, the only people who are still playing football will be African-Americans and working-class people,” says Edwards.

Joe Pugliese for ESPNJackson works to avoid giving ammunition to those who wish to destroy him with his own words.

Edwards predicts that as the talent pool skews even more black and working class, the “baggage” that comes with these players will only become more prevalent. So, he says, the NFL needs to find ways to better understand players’ struggles to balance career and background. “What the Eagles were dealing with in terms of trying to come to grips with DeSean is what the whole league should be preparing for,” he says. “Because that’s who’s going to be playing football. To think you’re not going to find anybody in football with baggage is preposterous.”

Today, Gayle Jackson says that what she finds most hurtful about the rumors hanging over her son is that they insult the memory of Bill Jackson, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009. “Now, you’re talking about a father who went to his grave making sure he was keeping this kid out of trouble,” she says.

At lunch, when Jackson’s train of thought brings him back to memories of his dad, he opens up a bit, his voice reflecting an admiration and respect the way a proud soldier’s might when talking about his time in the military. He says that after his father died, it was those “certain” people from his childhood who helped him navigate his grief. “As far as having certain people around me,” he says, “people who in the middle of that whole time helped me get past that and get to where I’m at. Once I get here, I’m supposed to forget that they helped me?” He shakes his head. “That doesn’t make sense. I’m a firm believer that when someone helps you get to where you’re at, you show your appreciation.”

Jackson says the best lesson he has learned over the past few months is that “your private time is your private time, and you don’t always have to show people what you’re doing” on Instagram and the like. Otherwise, he’s going to stick to the formula that’s been working for him for years, ever since Team Jackson came together like Voltron to build him into the man he is today, ever since Bill Jackson looked at a 5-year-old no heavier than a sack of flour and told him he was going to be an NFL star.

When I ask Jackson if he feels pressure to prove himself in Washington this year, a burden to silence his doubters — from those who say he’s too small to those who say he’s a diva to those who say he’s a gang-affiliated liability — he smiles. “I don’t feel no pressure, man,” he says. “I been feeling pressure since I was a little kid, since I was walking down the street in Crenshaw, Calif. The pressure on this side is a little better.”

Of that, DeSean Jackson seems quite certain.

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