As usual, Long Beach was host to an NFL player putting on a free summer football camp for local youth last weekend. That’s become regular in Long Beach, where the kids have had plenty of opportunity to hear from local guys made good over the past several years. What was unusual was the NFLer at the center of the hundreds of eager young campers: Long Beach Poly alum DeSean Jackson, of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The camp at Veterans Memorial Stadium was the first free offering Jackson has put on in Long Beach, and he said it was an emotional homecoming for him putting the event on at Vets.
“It’s always a pleasure to be back in Long Beach where I started my career and legacy,” he said. “A lot of familiar faces come out and support, guys I played with, coaches. It’s really an honor to have them here, you don’t get to see all of them a lot.”
Jackson has put on several camps over the years, but not in the city where he first made his name.
“I’ve always taken pride in putting on events like this to have the people who helped me get to this point in my career give these kids the principles that made me who I am,” said Jackson. “I want to give back to these kids out here today, it’s a blessing to have the opportunity to put this camp on. These kids area huge inspiration to me in my life on a daily basis.”
Poly coach Stephen Barbee was on hand as a volunteer, and was happy to see Jackson inspiring the local kids. Barbee also pointed out that Jackson showed up to the Edison Battle at the Beach the previous weekend to cheer on Poly as the young Jackrabbits made a semifinal run before falling to Mater Dei in a single-possession game.
“DeSean Jackson is such a great representative of our team, and it means a lot to them to see him support them,” said Barbee.
“Long Beach Poly has a special place in my heart going back to 2001 as a young kid,” said Jackson. “I just want to motivate the guys and support them any way possible, Long Beach Poly is the home of the greats–I want them to know I see them and we’re all cheering for them.”
There’s been plenty for Poly fans to cheer about when it comes to Jackson. He’s often repped his high school more publicly than his college, sometimes saying “DeSean Jackson, Long Beach Poly” during television introductions instead of shouting out Cal, where he played NCAA ball. Jackson is back with the Eagles this season as he enters his 12th season in the NFL, a decorated career that’s seen him haul in 589 passes for over 10,000 yards, as well as three Pro Bowl honors. Jackson now stands at No. 45 all-time in the NFL in terms of receiving yards and is fifth in receiving yards by current players.
Barbee wasn’t the only local volunteer to work the camp with Jackson–the sidelines were stuffed with familiar faces including current Poly players and recent alums. Fellow Poly to the NFLers like Terrance Austin, Samie Parker, and Travon Patterson served as volunteers, as did Jackson’s speed trainer Gary Cablayan, who also works with John Ross.
Gayle Jackson, President and Co-Founder, of the DeSean Jackson Foundation, stressed the importance of having this inaugural event in Long Beach in regards to her late husband’s legacy; and, Long Beach is where Bill’s vision for transitioning the youth in South Central L.A. beyond their borders through sports began.
We are privileged to have the resources, donors and community partners to provide a free camp for 350 youth, from extremely diverse segments of Los Angeles County. We are also honored to have a $1,500.00 grant from the NFL Foundation to help defray some of the costs of associated with the planning and execution of a monumental event of this magnitude.
A’Dreea Jackson-Clay, DeSean Jackson, and Team Jackson: Byron Jackson, Travis Clark, Irving Booker, Darrick Davis