Jacobs, a wide receiver in his sixth year on Maryland’s roster, says everything in his life revolves around Bailey. She motivates him on the field and led him to find odd jobs so he’d be able to support her. Bailey prompted Jacobs to play for the in-state Terps rather than for Ohio State, the team that will be visiting College Park for Senior Day this weekend and the program to which Jacobs once gave a verbal commitment.
Bailey stays with her dad full time every other week, and through his career at Maryland, Jacobs has mastered the art of making it all work, zeroing in on game plans during the day and then his daughter’s homework at night, while leaning on help from his parents and girlfriend.
“Anything I do,” Jacobs said, “I try to make sure it’s in the best interest so I can help her.”
When Jacobs found out as a 16-year-old high schooler that he would become a father, his parents were shocked. Jacobs’s mom, Rosalind, knew her son’s life would be permanently altered, just as hers had been when she had Levern Jacobs Jr., Taivon’s older brother who also played at Maryland, at age 18.
“I just didn't know if he was going to be able to pursue everything he wanted and be there for her,” Jacobs’s mom said. “I just didn't know. But I watched him evolve. I watched him become a man.”
Jacobs remembers his parents telling him he could either be a good father or a terrible father. He could be involved or absent. He had a choice. But to Jacobs, he only saw one option — to be there for his daughter.
Still, Jacobs felt scared. After Bailey was born, he said he was “kind of stuck for at least a month,” as he processed what it meant to have a child and the way someone else now relied on him. As he held Bailey in the hospital, Jacobs felt an overwhelming sense that he couldn’t let her down. In that moment, he said, everything changed.
Jacobs’s dad, Levern, saw his son become more focused. Jacobs improved as an athlete and began to pick up Division I offers that next season.
“I was just like, ‘Nothing can stop me, now that I’m here, she’s here,’ ” Jacobs said. “I’m her Superman. I’m her Incredible Hulk or Spider-Man, any superhero that she wanted me to be. That’s kind of the mind-set that I took towards anything.”
Jacobs would wake up early to take care of Bailey before school. His days were shorter than they are now; schedules were less complicated before Bailey started school and her father began college.
As a senior at Suitland High, Jacobs committed to Ohio State, but he wasn’t certain where he’d end up until National Signing Day. Jacobs’s dad found out his son would be going to school in his home state when he placed the Maryland hat on his head. Bailey, Jacobs’s parents said, was the main reason behind his decision.
Since Bailey was 6 months old, her living arrangement has been split between Jacobs and Bailey’s mom every other week. For much of Jacobs’s college career, however, Bailey would stay with her grandparents and spend time with her dad on the weekends.
But since last spring, when Jacobs finished his degree in criminology and criminal justice and learned to manage his time better, Bailey has spent the full week with him at his off-campus apartment in Greenbelt. Jacobs’s girlfriend, former Maryland gymnast Dominiquea Trotter, helps get Bailey to school and handles most of the cooking. (They have steak every Thursday before games and tacos every Tuesday that Bailey is with them. She loves sour cream.)
“I enjoy it better because I get to be with her 24-7, watch her develop as a young lady and be a part of it more than what I was,” Jacobs said.
After Jacobs gets home from football practice, he lets Bailey decide if she wants to do homework and then take a bath or take a bath first and then do homework. Sometimes if he gets home early enough, they have time to play outside.
To help support Bailey, Jacobs dog-sits through an app called Rover. He also has some ongoing clients who have dogs he takes care of through what’s becoming a personal business he is interested in pursuing after football. During football season, he cares for only a few dogs, but it picks up around the holidays and then in the spring and summer.
Initially, Jacobs tried working as a dishwasher at a bowling alley, but dog-sitting quickly emerged as a more preferable option. Jacobs has six cats and a dedicated “cat room,” which is mostly empty apart from a couple cat toys and a small placard hanging from the closet door that says, “You had me at meow.”
Bailey doesn’t come to all the football games. Jacobs knows she’d rather be at birthday parties, and he doesn’t want her to be outside in bad weather anyway.
Jacobs, who had two injuries that each caused him to miss a season, has been with the program longer than any player or coach. He’s had four head coaches, two permanent ones and two interims. His best statistical season came last year, when he finished with 47 receptions for 553 yards and five touchdowns. This year he leads the Terps (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) with 21 catches for 253 yards, along with two touchdowns, but he’s ready for his college career to come to an end.
But his future in professional football — and more importantly, near Bailey — is uncertain. Jacobs could land in a different city. His mom jokes that’s why she works — so she’d be able to frequently hop on a plane with Bailey and visit. The thought of being able to support Bailey with an NFL paycheck is great, Jacobs said. But his greater priority is to stay active in her life.
“This has meant everything to him,” Jacobs’s mom said of her son staying involved with Bailey through college. “I don’t even think Bailey even realizes right now. She’s 6, so she doesn’t realize the sacrifices her dad has made, adversities he’s had to overcome. That’ll be something she’ll see later in life.”