Remembering Vincent Jackson

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Photo credit Jim Rydbom/Greeley Tribune

The Hillsborough County sheriff’s department in Brandon, Florida has begun an investigation into the death of former University of Northern Colorado and NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

Jackson’s body was found in his hotel room at the Homewood Suites hotel a few days after members of the Jackson family filed for a missing person’s report. According to the sheriff’s office news release, Jackson had been living in south Tampa and had been staying at the hotel since Jan. 11.  

His body was found by the hotel housekeeping staff around 11:30 the morning of Feb. 15. The news release stated that no signs of trauma were found. The cause of death remains unknown. 

Jackson attended school at Widefield High School in Colorado Springs. While there, he participated in varsity football, basketball and track. As a senior, Jackson earned a Rocky Mountain News All-State honorable mention in addition to a first-team all-area and all-conference selection for football. After graduating, Jackson accepted a partial scholarship to play both football and basketball at UNC.

Jackson would make his mark at the Greeley school and provide some much-needed buzz for the football program. Jackson made his impact early as a punt returner by scoring on his first return against Adams State College as a freshman. Jackson would also earn a starting position on the UNC basketball team.

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Jackson would go on to become UNC’s leader in receptions, game and season receiving yards, kick and punt return yards and receiving touchdowns. The highlights of his senior season included a 13-catch, 249-yard and three score performance against Florida Atlantic University. He concluded this season by earning a selection as an FCS All-American and a school record of 21 touchdowns. 

While in college, Jackson was described as quiet and well-mannered, in part to his military upbringing. Jackson remained approachable to his classmates and spent time giving back to the community by volunteering as a tutor at Greeley’s Scott Elementary School once a week. Jackson graduated from UNC in 2004. 

“His impact will always be felt throughout our Athletic Department,” said Darren Dunn, UNC’s athletic director. “He will be dearly missed, but not forgotten.”

His success on the football field and the impact he had on such a small program would catapult Jackson into stardom. He was selected 61st overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, the highest draft position by a UNC graduate. Jackson was selected by the then San Diego Chargers and spent the first seven years of his professional career with the team. 

After becoming a free agent in 2012, Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his stellar 12-year career, Jackson earned three Pro Bowl selections in a four-year span from 2009 to 2012. Jackson played with the Buccaneers for five seasons before announcing his retirement in 2016. During his career, Jackson accounted for over 9,000 receiving yards and 57 touchdowns on 540 receptions. 

During his time in Tampa Bay, Jackson would set franchise records for receiving yards in a single game and the longest single reception in 2012 against the New Orleans Saints. 

Off the field and during his retirement, Jackson spent his time volunteering and giving back to military families in the Tampa Bay community with his Jackson In Action 83 Foundation. With his foundation, Jackson would create his own section of fans in the front row of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Jackson would later be made an honorary deputy by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. 

Many sports icons and athletes took to Twitter to voice their thoughts and feelings about Jackson and his family, including long-time ESPN commentator Dick Vitale and current Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans. The Twitter accounts for both UNC and the Denver Broncos recognized Jackson’s impact on Greeley and the state of Colorado. 

Many Tampa Bay fans fresh off the team’s second Super Bowl victory expressed their appreciation and love for Jackson’s time with the team, with one fan saying that they wore Jackson’s #83 jersey during every playoff game and doused it with champagne after the big win. 

The legacy and impact of Vincent Jackson is one that should be remembered and looked on with pride for both the state of Colorado and the communities of Colorado Springs and Greeley. As his name in the UNC record books solidifies his legacy, first year head coach and Denver Broncos legend Ed McCaffrey hopes to emulate Jackson’s success on the football field this year. 

“Vincent was blessed with great football skills and a compassionate heart,” said McCaffrey. “He used those skills to great success on and off the field.”

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