Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson, 31, is just 69 receiving yards away from recording his sixth 1,000-yard season in his 10 NFL seasons (seven with Chargers, three with Bucs). In his third season in Tampa Bay, Jackson is coming off back-to-back career years with Tampa and has been impressive both on and off the field.
In addition to his impressive on-the-field production for the Bucs, Jackson has had a lot of off-field success within the Tampa Bay community ever since signing a five year, $55.5 million contract with the Buccaneers on March 13, 2012.
This afternoon Vincent took time off from preparing for Sunday’s match-up with the Green Bay Packers to speak with us about his foundation (Jackson in Action 83), the Tampa Bay community and what he’ll be focusing on heading into the off-season:
All-Out Blitz: Hey Vincent, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. First off, you started your Jackson in Action 83 Foundation back when you first arrived in Tampa Bay, could you tell us a little bit about how and why you started the foundation?
Vincent Jackson: Yes, that’s correct, I started the foundation back in 2012 when I signed on with the Buccaneers. It’s a tight-knit community here. We have MacDill Air Force Base right here in our backyard. It’s one of the largest and most influential bases in our country. They were pretty much responsible for coordinating a lot of the work going on overseas in the last decade.
I come from a military background. My father served in the Army for 22 years, so for me I’m just very familiar with growing up on military bases and the military lifestyle. I understand what these families go through. There are some great foundations already out there existing for the troupes, the wounded veterans and things like that, which my foundation supports as well. But I wanted to be a little more unique, kind of a special niche, focusing on the families––especially the children––because they might get overlooked. We try to support the troupes by focusing on their families, and when they’re deployed there are a lot of resources we can provide (to the families) and help bridge that gap from being separated thousands of miles.
So we really try to give the troupes a piece of home, as well as the families left behind and make sure they know they’re being thought of and are being supported as well. We’ve had plenty of support from the Tampa community in what we’ve accomplished so far in a matter of two and a half years. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of what we’ve been able to do.
AOB: You mentioned that you grew up in a military family. What was it like in your household growing up, with military parents, and do you think it had a large impact on who you are today?
Jackson: Yes, I think the military lifestyle has been a big part of developing my character and my personality. Probably a little bit of my success as well. So it was good. We weren’t overly disciplined or anything like that, we lived a normal lifestyle but we definitely learned a little bit more about sacrifice and how to adapt. You’re changing schools as a kid, having to make new friends and pick up on a new curriculum in the middle of the school year, things like that. It can be tough, so you learn how to deal with adversity and handle obstacles.
Obviously the family aspect of it, sticking together and being supportive of those around you. Those are all great team building skills, so I’ve tried to carry that into my career from as a kid all the way into my profession, as far as being supportive of those around me and those a part of my team. Obviously in sports you’re going to have tons and tons of challenges over time, so the military background growing up and being thrown curveballs sometimes definitely helped me adapt and prepare for those kind of situations.
AOB: Just a few days ago you were named the Buccaneers’ Man of the Year, and you’re one of the 32 candidates for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. What does this accomplishment mean to you?
Jackson: It’s very humbling. I couldn’t be more honored to be considered one of the 32 guys in this league that could be considered the best of the best as far as community service. There are so many guys and so many organizations that do a ton of work across the country, and what I’ve been able to do as an individual and through my foundation is something I’m very proud of. It’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of hours put in but it’s more than worth it. It’s beyond the award––which I totally respect and appreciate––but it’s the feedback we get from the families, their gratitude and seeing the effects first-hand. We’re able to make an impact, and that’s the important thing that really hits home for me.
AOB: In addition to the military-related projects, are there any other major projects that you and your foundation have been working on within the Tampa Bay community recently?
Jackson: Oh man, we always have something going on. It seems every few months we have some sort of big program going. We just did a Fall Festival in October, helping out 40-50 military families. It’s an amazing outdoor facility within the Tampa Bay community. Plenty to do with the kids, a great lunch for the families. It was a really great day for them.
We just did our Santa Social, which is a holiday event where we have 200-300 kids come through with their families at the Glazer Children’s Museum in downtown Tampa. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been so supportive of our efforts and endeavors throughout all of our programs, so we appreciate that.
But there’s never a wrong time to be doing something. Our reading program, which is based on encouraging kids on improving their reading skills, we do every school year (it’s ongoing now). We select about 10-12 recipients every month that are showing great effort and improvement. We’ll go to the schools and invite those kids out to One Buccaneer Place (team headquarters) with their family members, give them a nice tour, show them around. It’s a pretty cool experience for the people that may never get to see something like that. We’ll do that throughout the rest of this school year going into the spring.
AOB: What’s been one of the biggest differences between your Chargers playing days and your three seasons with the Buccaneers––not only on the field, but also your surroundings in a new city?
Jackson: It’s been great here, honestly. They’re both great cities, I really enjoyed my time in San Diego. Tampa is also a beautiful place to live and raise a family. Again, this Tampa Bay community really strikes me as such a giving and tight-knit community. Whether it’s the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB team), Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL team), whatever’s going on, we’re all supportive of each other throughout the sports field. I’ve met tons of successful business professionals that wanna get involved with supporting our military and things like that. So I can really say my time here in Tampa has just really been a joy. To receive the support I’ve received and find things I can be a part of that I didn’t know about before has just been outstanding. I really consider Tampa my home now, and plan on probably staying here after I retire from football.
AOB: With just a couple weeks left in the season, is there anything specific that you’ll be focusing on heading into the off-season?
Jackson: You know, looking at the season from the football side of it, it’s obviously been a disappointing year as far as our record goes. But there’s still a lot of positive things we can take from this year, it’s a learning experience and we can build upon it. For me, I’m just going to obviously like I do every off-season go back to the drawing board and continue working on my craft. I feel like I still have quite a bit of football years left in me. So I’m excited about that, I’m excited about the future with Lovie Smith (TB head coach) and this organization.
As far as off-the-field stuff goes, I’m just going to continue to learn and to talk to military families and personnel directly to find out exactly how we can grow the foundation, what things can we provide to support them and continue to be at the forefront of supporting these families. It’s not really about what we want to provide, everything we do, all of our programs and the feedback that we receive are based on what they feel like they need, and that’s pretty special.
AOB: Thank you very much for taking your time to answer our questions this afternoon, Vincent.
As one of the 32 candidates for the 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (winner will be announced on January 31, prior to the Super Bowl), Jackson’s off-field success and recent endeavors have been well-documented over the last few years. But I think it’s safe to say that VJ’s community service in the Tampa Bay area is just getting started.
Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images