‘Team Jackson’ guided Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson through rough upbringing


DeSean Jackson’s upbringing, life choices and social circles have been discussed and scrutinized in great detail since he was released by the Eagles in late March amid a report of his alleged gang ties and signed by the Redskins six days later. Jackson’s south central Los Angeles roots, which The Post’s Kent Babb wrote about in April, are a main focus of this week’s ESPN the Magazine cover story by Cord Jefferson.

One of the more interesting parts of the feature, in which Jackson denies, once again, ever being in a gang, is the insight it provides about Jackson’s relationships with his dad and brother. Bill Jackson, who died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer, wanted nothing more than for DeSean’s older brother, Byron, to play in the NFL. Byron played wide receiver at San Jose State, but after two years on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad and brief stints in the CFL and World League of American Football, he gave up professional football.

According to Jefferson, there’s a part in the documentary movie Byron made about DeSean where Byron says his dad was so upset about his decision to quit football that he pointed a handgun in his face. Byron, now an editor at Fox Sports, didn’t speak to his dad for two years after that incident, but the two were reunited when DeSean was 8.

“I knew he was going to push my little brother the same way he pushed me,” Byron said. “DeSean had a passion for football at an early age. I knew I had to come back to help my dad lead DeSean.”

Byron recruited a network of friends to form a personal training camp for DeSean that they called Team Jackson.

Here are four other parts of the feature I found interesting. You can read the entire story here.

* Byron Jackson said some of DeSean’s friends who were “involved in mischievous things” recognized that DeSean’s athleticism would enable him to achieve great success outside of Los Angeles. They wanted to remain friends with DeSean while being careful not to derail him. DeSean’s mother, Gayle, said her son was loyal almost to a fault.

“Those guys gravitated toward him because he had structure in his life,” Gayle Jackson said. “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.’”

* Jackson again addressed accusations that he throws up gang signs in photos on social media and during games, which he was asked about during his one-on-one interview with Stephen A. Smith in April. Jackson won’t call them gang signs, but he explained the reason behind his hand gestures.

“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. 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.”

* Harry Edwards, a sociology professor at UC Berkeley, where Jackson played for three seasons, says the NFL needs to be better prepared to understand players with rough upbringings, including gang affiliations. Two-thirds of NFL players are now black, compared to 12 percent in 1959, and Edwards expects the epidemic of brain injuries will only escalate the shift.

“In a decade, the only people who are still playing football will be African-Americans and working-class people,” Edwards says.

* Here’s Jackson on the best lesson he has learned over the past few months.

“Your private time is your private time and you don’t always have to show people what you’re doing” [on social media].

Again, you can read the entire story here.

Scott Allen writes about all things D.C. sports. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSAllen or e-mail him if you’ve got a tip to share.
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Dan Steinberg · June 27

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