Feature: DeSean Jackson Returns To Poly, Offers Encouragement         

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 1:53 am         |                         Updated: 2:10 am, Fri Apr 1, 2011.           

Feature: DeSean Jackson Returns To Poly, Offers Encouragement by: Mike GuardabascioGazettes.com – Gazette Newspapers Long Beach California

DeSean Jackson, Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Eagles and a Poly Jackrabbit, was back at his old stomping grounds on Thursday to offer words of encouragement to an auditorium full of Poly students.

“It feels good to be back here,” he said before taking the stage. “My heart is here.”

Backstage before the event, Jackson joked around with coaches Raul Lara and Sharrief Metoyer, reliving some of his high school memories (and challenging Metoyer and Poly point guard Alexis Moore to an impromptu basketball game which, sadly, there wasn’t time for). Then he took the stage to talk about overcoming adversity, ignoring bullies, and what it means to come from Long Beach.

He began by highlighting how quickly success can come when physical gifts are coupled with hard work. “I feel everyone sitting here,” he said, gesturing to the crowd. “I was sitting in your same seat, less than seven years ago. Everyone in here has power—it’s on you to make it happen.”

Speaking to athletes and scholars alike, Jackson pointed out the importance of surrounding yourself with positive influences. “If you have friends who don’t want positive things for you, that’s not a friend,” he said. “You’ve got to study, you’ve got to work out. If you have friends that want you to go to the movies, or kick it with this girl—they don’t have your best interests at heart.”

Among other subjects, Jackson touched on losing his father, Bill Jackson, to pancreatic cancer in May of 2009. “That was tough,” he said. “He’d pushed me since I was young—having a father around to care for me, a lot of people can’t say that, that’s sad to me.” Jackson and his mother, Gayle, have created a non-profit foundation to help raise funds to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease. You can learn more about that or donate by visiting http://deseanjacksonsfoundation.org.

Ostensibly, the biggest reason Jackson was there was to talk about his recent interest in bullying bullies. A few months ago, he appeared on the View to offer encouragement to Nadin Khoury, a young Philadelphia boy who had been beaten by seven older teenagers. It was an amazing moment.

He challenged students to imagine that any bullied youth was their younger sibling, to think about how that would make them feel. Then he offered a few challenging words for any students who may have engaged in bullying themselves. “What is that?” he asked. “Bullying isn’t a job, that’s not going to take care of you, that’s not going to feed your family.”

But above all else, the NFL star offered a boost to any student in the audience who was struggling in the service of their dream. “I understand when you’re young, there’s things you have to go through, and it’s hard,” he said. “But you have to ask yourself, would you rather be successful, or average? It’s up to you, really.”

There’s no doubt which route Jackson chose when he was younger—and it’s good to see him run a curl route back to Poly to impart some positive words on the next generation.