It seemed former San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson had it made when he played in the NFL from 2005 to 2016.
Jackson was one of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ favorite targets during his seven-year tenure in San Diego.
The player, who teammates fondly called “V-Jax,” racked up several 1,000-yard receiving seasons and earned three Pro Bowl selections during his pro football career.
The quiet and unassuming Jackson had prepared for life after football well before his retirement in 2018.
He was a budding entrepreneur who launched several restaurants and a non-profit organization that assisted military families. The Tampa Bay community also lauded him for his philanthropic efforts during the latter part of his NFL career.
Sadly, Vincent Jackson passed away at just 38 years of age due to suspected chronic alcohol abuse.
Nonetheless, he left behind an enduring legacy that has touched the lives of many football fans.
Vincent Terrell Jackson was born to parents Terence and Sherry in Colorado Springs, CO on January 14, 1983.
According to the official website of Jackson’s non-profit foundation, Terence Jackson was in the Army for 21 years. He met his wife Sherry at a boot camp.
Jackson considered his mom and dad his role models while growing up. He didn’t have a favorite NFL team as a child.
“I can’t tell you anyone I look up to or want to be like just because I’ve never been a big sports fanatic,” Jackson told UNC Magazine in 2005.
Although Jackson had no inkling to play sports, they came naturally to him at an early age. He and his dad Terence won several father-son running competitions. Vincent realized his father had a tremendous work ethic during those runs.
Since Jackson’s parents served in the Army, he spent his formative years in a nomadic fashion – he grew up on military bases located in Louisiana, Arizona, Germany, and Colorado, per The Denver Post’s Kyle Fredrickson.
When the Jackson family stayed in Germany for three years, Vincent played soccer. It was around that time when Terence Jackson knew his son had athletic abilities.
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Credit: Matt May Photography pic.twitter.com/G3ayNKZj6l
— VJ (@VincentTJackson) May 25, 2020
Despite living a vagabond lifestyle early in his life, Jackson still considered Colorado Springs home.
Vincent Jackson attended Widefield High School in his hometown. He excelled in football, track, and basketball for the Widefield Gladiators.
Jackson was a 5’5″ high school freshman who made headlines for his performance on the track, per The Denver Post’s Sean Keeler.
He grew 11 inches in the next three years and became an impressive physical specimen. Not only that, but he also had brains to go with it – Jackson graduated third in his high school class with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
As Jackson’s high school athletics career wound down, the Northern Colorado Bears and the Ivy League’s Columbia Lions had him on their radars.
Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t offer Jackson a scholarship. Although Jackson had no plans of embarking on a career in sports, he couldn’t resist the financial assistance he’d receive if he suited up for the Bears football team.
Jackson also told The Denver Post in 2018 he could get the rest of his financial aid through academics.
Northern Colorado assistant football coach Earnest Collins helped recruit Jackson. Ironically, Collins noticed Jackson’s potential when he strutted his wares on the high school basketball court, per UNC Magazine.
Little did Vincent Jackson know his outstanding playing days in Northern Colorado would eventually pave the way for a stellar career in the National Football League.
College Days With The Northern Colorado Bears
Vincent Jackson attended Northern Colorado State University from 2001 to 2004.
Jackson told UNC Magazine he had no interest in becoming an engineering major. He decided to enroll at the Monfort College of Business because it was one of only thirty-four business schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Even before Vincent Jackson entered the college football ranks, he already had his long-term future in mind.
Devastated to learn of the passing of Vincent Jackson. Such a great young man when I first encountered him on the Northern Colorado campus. What a tremendous collegiate career for the UNC Bears and then on to the NFL with the Chargers and Buccaneers. The world will miss him 😢 pic.twitter.com/bnevM0TtRC
— Colin McDonough (@colinmcdonough) February 15, 2021
Jackson played mostly on special teams as a freshman and sophomore. Some of his peers told him transferring to another program would bode well for his future football career.
However, Vincent Jackson told The Denver Post he was more concerned about getting a good education so he stayed at Northern Colorado.
Jackson made the correct decision. He became an elite wide receiver for the Bears in his junior and senior seasons in 2003.
He racked up consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2003 to 2004. Prior to Jackson’s senior campaign, his Bears teammates unanimously voted him team captain.
Northern Colorado head football coach Kay Dalton felt the soft-spoken Jackson couldn’t be team captain because he hardly talked.
It turned out Vincent Jackson led by example instead.
“He just led by example,” Jackson’s friend and college roommate Tony Lee told The Denver Post in February 2021. “He’s the best offensive player in that university’s history.”
Lee was right – Jackson’s numbers spoke for themselves. Jackson became Northern Colorado’s career leader in yards (3,548) and touchdowns (37), per the team’s official athletics website.
He’s also one of only two players in Bears football history to record two 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Jackson blossomed into an FCS All-American wide receiver as a senior after hauling in a school record of 21 touchdowns for the Bears in 2004.
He also suited up for the Bears basketball team for two years and led the team in scoring each time.
— Kyle Kruszewski (@kyle_kruszewski) February 16, 2021
Opposing defensive backs taunted Jackson on the college gridiron. However, he seldom talked back – instead, he shot them a look that insinuated he was going to dominate them.
When Jackson did talk back, he didn’t talk smack. He always kept it clean.
Jackson was so popular that there was a time he almost missed the team bus after a game against the Montana Grizzlies. According to Keeler, autograph seekers mobbed him after the game – he couldn’t get off the gridiron.
Despite the attention Jackson garnered, he remained humble and down-to-earth.
“Even though you’re a good athlete and may be receiving a lot of attention, you don’t have to be that bad guy,” Jackson told UNC Magazine in 2005. “I don’t expect any special attention because of what I do on the athletic field.”
Jackson manifested his humility in several ways. First, he never took advantage of a special parking pass at Northern Colorado’s business college. He typically parked off-campus and walked to his classrooms.
During Jackson’s college days, he and two Bears teammates volunteered as tutors at Greeley’s Scott Elementary School.
Vincent Jackson was an excellent cook when he was at Northern Colorado. His specialty was manicotti, a type of stuffed or baked pasta.
Jackson was also a stickler for order and cleanliness. He told UNC Magazine his teammates referred to him as “Martha Stewart” because of his cooking and cleaning prowesses.
As Jackson’s tenure at Northern Colorado wound down, he envisioned himself becoming a real estate investor after retiring from the NFL.
Jackson committed himself to this vision and eventually saw it come to fruition after hanging up his cleats in 2018.
However, before Vincent Jackson became a successful businessman, he became a big-name wide receiver in the National Football League.
Pro Football Career
The San Diego Chargers made Vincent Jackson the 61st overall selection of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Even as a rookie, Jackson looked at the long-term picture and invested in his career after football.
While his teammates went on vacation during team breaks, he constantly reached out to business contacts via speaking engagements and charity events.
“The platform that we have as professional athletes, we get invited to a lot of unique places and some doors get opened for us that don’t for the general public,” he told Fredrickson some thirteen years later. “I don’t take that for granted at all.”
During Jackson’s seven-year tenure with the Chargers, he opened a restaurant called “Dirty Birds.” The establishment boasted a beachside setting and specialized in wings, sandwiches, and hamburgers, per USA TODAY’s Tom Schad.
Jackson told the Tampa Bay Times’ Susan Taylor Martin in the fall of 2015 that he also had a seafood restaurant in the San Diego area known as “Pacific Beach Fish Shop.” He was also a partner of the Irish-style pub “Tilted Kilt” which had two branches, one in San Diego and one in Las Vegas.
Before long, Vincent Jackson had opened more restaurant franchises all over the country.
Vincent Jackson and Philip Rivers had a very special connection back with the Chargers. This was right at the beginning when I started to watch football seriously, and remember vividly just how special Jackson was. RIP Jackson, you will be missed. pic.twitter.com/AWfXrawk8T
— FromTheHuddle (@FromTheHuddle) February 15, 2021
Injuries limited Jackson to just eight games as a rookie in 2005. It wasn’t until September 17, 2006, that he caught his first touchdown pass in the NFL. It happened in a win over the Tennessee Titans.
It was around this time when Vincent Jackson’s alcohol issues began to be a serious issue not only in his pro football career but also for his health and well-being.
According to the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud, San Diego police arrested and charged Jackson with driving under the influence in 2006 and 2009. He pleaded guilty on both occasions, received a $2,408 fine, and did community service for fifteen days.
Jackson had a memorable four-year stretch with the Chargers from 2008 to 2011. With the exception of his injury-riddled 2010 NFL campaign, he racked up three 1,000-yard seasons.
Consequently, Jackson earned two Pro Bowl berths in 2009 and 2011.
On the flip side, he received a three-game suspension in 2010 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy – an issue that stemmed from his two previous DUI arrests, per Stroud.
The Chargers enjoyed one of their most memorable stretches in franchise history with Vincent Jackson as a wide receiver. They averaged 10 wins per year and made four postseason appearances from 2005 to 2011.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t get past the AFC Championship Game during that seven-year time frame.
Jackson mentored wide receiver Jacob Hester during the pinnacle of his career with the Chargers from 2008 to 2011.
When Hester had second thoughts about attending a local golf tournament in 2008 because he was the only rookie around, Jackson encouraged him to go.
Hester also told ESPN’s Jenna Laine in 2021 that Jackson regularly asked his teammates to stay and put in extra time after practice.
It was a trait that continued throughout Vincent Jackson’s twelve-year NFL career.
Jackson became a member of the Northern Colorado Hall of Fame in 2011 – his final season in San Diego.
Vincent Jackson made many big plays during his time as a @Buccaneers player. This one we think is high up people’s list as one of his best.
What a player the man was.
— Bucs UK (@BucsUK) February 15, 2021
He signed a five-year, $55.55 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the spring of 2012.
It wasn’t merely a change of scenery for Jackson and his family. They’d eventually fall in love with the Tampa area and consider it their home well after Jackson’s final down in the pro football ranks.
Vincent Jackson picked up where he left off in San Diego. He strung together three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons in Tampa from 2012 to 2014. He caught passes from quarterbacks Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon, and Josh McCown during that time frame.
Jackson became a Pro Bowler for the third and final time in his pro football career following the 2012 NFL campaign.
Jackson continued displaying his incredible work ethic when he joined the Bucs. Former Tampa Bay wide receiver Russell Shepard remembered Mike Evans, the seventh overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, didn’t like to practice as a rookie.
That all changed when Evans saw Jackson work tirelessly in games and practice. After Evans refined his work ethic, he became a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver entering the 2022 NFL season.
Shepard sang Vincent Jackson’s praises during the former’s time in Tampa from 2013 to 2016.
“He was the most influential player I’ve ever come across in my career,” Shepard told ESPN in 2021.
Jackson also knew how to let his guard down. Shepard remembered one time when Jackson jumped off his pool house roof while having dinner with the Buccaneers wide receivers in his South Tampa residence.
Jackson’s entrepreneurial drive inspired Shepard to launch his own waste management company in Houston, TX after he retired from the NFL in 2019.
Jackson expanded his restaurant business as his gridiron career in Tampa wound down. He and his longtime business partner Adam Itzkowitz opened the Cask Social Kitchen in the South Tampa region in 2015.
Itzkowitz told Schad in 2021 that Jackson never wanted any publicity after they launched his latest restaurant. Jackson never wanted it named after him.
For his part, Itzkowitz tried to convince Jackson to do otherwise so the new establishment could gain traction and exposure. His efforts went for naught – Jackson wanted the restaurant to speak for itself.
When the movie “Concussion” opened in theaters in 2015, Jackson pored over studies about the risk of cognitive decline among football players. He also didn’t allow his kids to play tackle football until they were in high school, per The New York Times (via the Irish Times).
His wife Lindsey, a grade school teacher, suspected there was something wrong with her husband.
Jackson enrolled at the University of South Florida and picked up where he left off after he left Northern Colorado in 2005. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 2016.
Jackson was a charitable individual during his pro football career. In fact, he earned four nominations for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award – an accolade that honors a player’s charity work – during his five-year stint in Tampa.
The Tampa region also recognized Jackson’s philanthropic efforts. The local sheriff’s office made him an honorary deputy while the Tampa Air Force base made him an honorary commander.
Jackson also earned South Tampa Chamber of Commerce “Citizen of the Year” honors in 2017, per USA TODAY.
Jackson spent two injury-riddled seasons with the Buccaneers in 2015 and 2016. Tampa Bay averaged barely six wins per year during Jackson’s five-year tenure with the team. Consequently, they extended their postseason drought to nine years.
During Vincent Jackson’s final year in the NFL in 2016, his wife told the New York Times (via the Irish Times) that he began forgetting conversations.
When Jackson couldn’t land a free-agent deal in 2017, he knew his time on the gridiron had come to an end.
Vincent Jackson officially retired from the National Football League in May 2018. He displayed depression symptoms for half a year after his retirement. His attention span and problem-solving abilities had diminished considerably.
Lindsey Jackson told the New York Times her husband developed paranoia and would close the blinds when he got home.
Jackson finished his twelve-year NFL career with 9,080 receiving yards and 57 touchdowns on 540 receptions.
Jackson’s 4,754 career receiving yards and 14 regular-season 100-yard receiving games both rank 10th in San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers team history. His 37 career receiving touchdowns ties him for seventh all-time in franchise history.
He felt fortunate not to have undergone any major surgeries during his time on the pro gridiron, per Fredrickson.
Jackson also learned several valuable lessons during his twelve-year pro football career.
“It was such as competitive and unforgiving business,” Jackson told USF.edu’s Keith Morelli in the fall of 2018. “But from it I learned resiliency, patience, and discipline.”
Itzkowitz recalled Jackson never turning down an autograph, photograph, or conversation with fans. He knew his status as an NFL football player entailed these things yet he never complained. Instead, he felt blessed because he enjoyed a long and fruitful career on the gridiron, per Schad.
Itzkowitz also asked Jackson what he wanted to do when he retired from the NFL. The latter told him he didn’t want to embark on a broadcasting or coaching career.
Instead, Vincent Jackson wanted to pursue his other passions and go full throttle in his entrepreneurial career.
Alas, Jackson’s life was tragically cut short when his various business ventures were gaining traction during his retirement years.
Post-Football Life And Death
Vincent Jackson, his wife Lindsey, and their four children lived in the Tampa Bay, FL area after he retired from the National Football League.
The business endeavors Jackson started as a rookie in 2005 gained traction during his retirement years.
According to The Denver Post, Jackson was the CEO of CTV Capital, a management firm that focused on development, finance, and real estate. Jackson also owned several restaurants across the country.
Jackson and his business partners planned to restore Manhattan Casino, a venue that hosted various events and concerts. He was excited about the project despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, per USA TODAY.
He also started the Jackson in Action 83 foundation, a non-profit organization that assisted military families and their kids.
Vincent Jackson also served as an advisor to recently-retired NFL players who needed guidance on life after football. Jackson typically talked to them on the phone or had lunch with them, per Fredrickson.
Jackson looked up to Los Angeles Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson and legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach as his model athletes-turned-entrepreneurs.
During Vincent Jackson’s days as an entrepreneur, he told Tampa Magazine’s McKenna Kelley his favorite author was Brene Brown. He also singled out Gmail and Google Calendar as his favorite apps.
Lindsey Jackson told The New York Times that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ victory in Super Bowl LV reminded her husband of the losing seasons he spent with the team.
The COVID-19 pandemic also took its toll on Jackson. He constantly worried about having to lay off his employees. He also drank more because he was mostly home during the pandemic, per The New York Times.
When Jackson’s drinking spiraled out of control, he moved into the Homewood Suites hotel which is a 20-minute drive from his Tampa Bay residence. After Jackson’s family couldn’t reach him anymore, they sought police assistance.
Sadly, a housekeeper found Vincent Jackson dead in his hotel room on February 15, 2021. Jackson had been living there for more than a month.
According to an autopsy report the Tampa Bay Times obtained, Jackson had tiny cuts on his scalp and left big toe. Authorities also discovered many liquor bottles inside his hotel room.
A toxicology report Stroud obtained showed Jackson’s blood alcohol levels were between 0.28 to 0.32 – four times beyond Florida’s legal limit.
Jackson’s autopsy further revealed he had mild atherosclerosis stemming from plaque building in the inner lining of his heart. He also sustained liver and kidney damage from suspected chronic alcohol abuse.
Jackson’s family released a statement saying he had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), per the Tampa Bay Times.
Before the discovery of Jackson’s body, he had been separated from his wife Lindsey for several months.
Vincent Jackson was 38 years old at the time of his death. His family donated his brain to Boston University’s CTE Center in February 2021.