WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — DeSean Jackson held his first D.C. fundraiser promoting his ongoing efforts to prevent bullying — at Pinstripes Bowling in Georgetown on Sunday — allowing fans and media a unique glimpse into his generally private life, and why he’s so devoted to helping children.
Prior to Jackson taking the mic in front of full banquet room — the event, the ‘Already Home Anti-Bullying Fundraiser,’ which featured a visit from D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who notably thanked the Eagles for making one of the “dumbest” decisions ever in releasing Jackson — was a viewing of Jackson’s documentary, which chronicles, with home video, his entire childhood, from pee wee football up to his subsequent rise to the NFL.
The majority of the footage was filmed by DeSean’s brother, Byron Jackson, who was on hand to present the film, throughout which, their father, Bill Jackson — who passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2009, and with whom DeSean was deeply close — can be seen drilling DeSean to work harder, to be the best, in his lifelong pursuit to reach the NFL ranks.
DeSean says it was his father’s relentless pushing which helped keep him focused and motivated, along his path to realizing his dream into fruition, which helped him avoid the pitfalls to which so many of his peers succumbed, a naturally predisposed attraction to street violence rampant in the gang-riddled Los Angeles neighborhood where DeSean grew up.
I caught up with Jackson afterward, to find out more about his passion to help and inspire children, from similar backgrounds as he, and also ask him a few questions designed to elicit responses which should have no serious implications on society.
Frankly, he hasn’t done a tremendous amount of media since signing with the Redskins, so I was intrigued just to get to know DeSean Jackson the person, more so than the football player, and feel that goal was reasonably met.
Here’s the Q & A, which has been slightly edited for clarity (as well as the questions, to circumvent my freakish stuttering).
What’s the source of your inspiration to help children, and working to eradicate bullying with your philanthropic endeavors?
Actually, you know, just growing up in Los Angeles, California, the daily struggle, witnessing the things I witnessed, as far as basically kids not having any motivation, not having no one to look up to to. And a lot of the kids I grew up around, when I was younger, only had mothers in their lives; they didn’t have fathers and they didn’t have connections to a dominant person in their life, to really be able to be someone to look up to. So at an early age, I saw a lot of my friends go through a lot in their lives, where they wen to violence, they went to drugs, because they didn’t really have no influence in their life.
Me, on the opposite end, I had a father that stood up and kind of kept me focused and challenged me as a young kid to go out and really accept nothing but the best, and not only be talented, but just work hard at it too. I think throughout my process, playing sports, it was like I was always one of the best players on my teams and things like that, but I actually had to challenge myself to take it to the next level — I wanted to go all the way to the NFL level — and that’s one thing I can say, the reason why I want to connect with the youth, because I feel I can be very intriguing and very motivating to these young kids, and just really challenging them, and expecting nothing but great things out of them.
The media sucks. Less than an hour prior to you being cut by the Eagles, a report surfaced [on NJ.com] alleging gang ties as being the likely reason for your release, not the $30.5 million you were reportedly set to earn, in base salary and bonuses, over the coming three seasons. How frustrating is it to have your name smeared in the national media, and not be able to clear it?
Honestly, it’s a frustrating matter. I think everything in life happens for a reason. I’m just very blessed that I’m able to have a second chance at playing football in the NFL, at the highest level still, and it really kind of humbled me a little bit.
Growing up, being drafted at 20-years-old, I haven’t been the most perfect person — just things I’ve witnessed — and I’ve grown from it, but at the end of the day, like you said, I never did anything, never been convicted, never had any felonies, never did no crazy things like that. So people can say things to be a certain way, but in life, in reality, I’ve never been nothing but a citizen; I stood up in the community, I’ve done a lot of things to help the youth — and not only youth, partnering up with Pancreatic Cancer and really trying to find a cure for that as well, too.
So at times, like I said, it is frustrating but it’s sad for them. I’m here in Washington now, so I’m happy to be a Washington Redskin, and you know, hopefully I’ll be able to play that team, the Eagles, and hopefully go out there and do some great things versus them. So you can’t get stuck on the negativity, you just have to find a positive way to get out of what I’ve learned and what I’ve been through. All I can say is I’m going to go out there and continue doing and that’s being a big time profile receiver in this league, you know?
At the risk of belaboring the point, the NJ.com report seemed to come out of nowhere. Do you feel at all like it was a plant by the Eagles organization, like to damage your name to try and justify releasing one of its best players?
Yea, in reality I think everybody knows the moral of the situation. At the end of the day, if you ask me, I just don’t think they wanted to pay me, as far as what my salary was. In this business that we play in, and we’re at now, that’s what happens. Sometimes teams feel they can go get a player for cheaper and have them playing for you, so I think it just came down to a numbers situation. But as far as anything else, as far as anything being implied on the organization, you don’t want to say that. But I think everybody knows what it is. I think everybody knows the situation and what happened.
You look to be in awesome shape. How do you not eat McDonald’s?
Hah. Well, I just challenge myself. Probably once a month I will eat McDonald’s. I would cheat once a month, but I really just stay focused, man. I have a plan and I know what it takes to go out there and play this game at a high level, so as far as my shape, I feel like I’m in great shape. I’m healthy, and we’re just out there right now just working together as one, as far as the team, and we’re motivating, we’re challenging each other to go out there. Expect nothing but great things, so this year I think is gonna be a great year for the Washington Redskins.
Did you really almost have RGIII’s jersey number?
Nah, man. We were just messing around with it. We just were messing around, but it’s a good thing, I think ’10 to 11,’ that’s how you’re gonna say it now.
If you could inspire a child in one sentence or less, how would you say it?
For all the youth and all the kids, man, I just challenge them in saying ‘Whatever it is in life that you want to do, put your maximum potential into it and full effort. Don’t accept nothing less but 120, 150 percent at what you’re doing. Hard work and dedication get the job done.’
You can listen to the full interview below.