DeSean Jackson‘s relationship with Andy Reid and the Eagles got off on the wrong foot.
The receiver and his family were already in the midst of a stressful day. Their draft party back in April of 2008 turned tense as the projected first-rounder slipped and slipped…until finally he was taken 49th by the Eagles. The celebration that ensued was quickly dampened following Jackson’s call with his new head coach.
“Hey, I just want to say one thing,” said Jackson, calling together his inner circle. “I was on the phone with Andy Reid. He said, ‘I don’t want your family to be a problem. I don’t want to deal with your dad.’ He said some bad things. I just wanted to let you know. That’s kind of messed up, though.”
That is one of the many nuggets stored in a fascinating 104-minute documentary titled “DeSean Jackson, The Making Of A Father’s Dream” which chronicles Jackson’s journey from Pop Warner to the pros. His older brother, Byron Jackson, began filming DeSean when he was about nine years old, and kept the camera rolling for more than 18 years.
Not a second of that time went by when DeSean wasn’t being groomed for the NFL.
DeSean’s father, the late Bill Jackson, was determined to have his sons make it to the pros. Byron briefly achieved that goal, spending two years on the Chiefs’ practice squad, but was eventually cut. He bounced around to the Canadian and World League but was ready to move onto a career in film-making. Bill was not ready for the ride to end. Wills collided, there was an incident, and the two didn’t speak for two years.
DeSean’s undeniable ability helped bring them back together, and they joined forces with several of Byron’s good friends — men that also came just shy of athletic excellence — to create a professional athlete. They set up a blueprint and gave him a strict training regimen. Had him working with a speed coach before he was even in high school.
Bill Jackson tells a story in the film about how he would even get his sister’s poodle into the training process. He used to tie a tennis ball to a rope, and that rope around DeSean’s waist. Every time the dog got the tennis ball, DeSean had to give him 15 pushups.
“I never gave him time off. People used to say, ‘Why are you doing him like that. You’re trying to kill him.’ Because he had so much energy, he would be running the streets.”
With all that manpower dedicated to a common goal, DeSean was able to maximize the immense amount of natural talent that just oozed out of him. That singular focus of developing an NFL player also created some problems. Cal head coach Jeff Tedford worried that team goals were taking a back seat to the individual pursuit of making it to the show. And Bill Jackson was so determined to make that dream a reality, that he at times took his advocacy for his son’s cause too far.
“While I understood what Bill’s motives were he didn’t always go about it the right way,” said Tedford. “As far as alienating people or really being loud outside of the locker room and things like that. If DeSean only caught a couple balls in the game, he wanted him to catch 10. He was driven for DeSean to be successful.”
Bill could be a handful (Reid obviously had heard as much) but it’s clear that it came from a good place. And ultimately, his plan worked.
He watched from a hospital bed as the Eagles beat the Giants in the Divisional Round to advance to the NFC Championship in DeSean’s rookie year. His son had four grabs for 81 yards in that game. Earlier that day, Bill had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That was January 11, 2009. He passed away May 14 of that year.
The next season DeSean broke out, posting over 1,100 receiving yards and racking up 12 touchdowns in all. There is a scene in the film where Byron and DeSean are waiting nervously to get word on whether he had been selected to the Pro Bowl. The call came from Reid. This time around, the coach’s words sent Jackson barreling down the steps and into his brother’s arms.
After the initial celebration, DeSean turns to the camera and says, “Pops man, I love you. You knew.”
The Pro Bowl was played on what would have been Bill’s 65th birthday. DeSean led the NFC with 101 yards and two touchdowns.
“At the end of the day,” said Byron, “my dad only wanted what was best for DeSean and all of his kids.”
The documentary is being released right around Father’s Day. It will be available on iN Demand beginning on June 7.
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