By Max Luckan
Vincent Jackson, WR, #83
Weight: 230 lbs.
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado
College: Northern Colorado
Experience: 8 years
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were desperately looking to get wide receiver Mike Williams a solid teammate this past offseason. Williams struggled in 2011, and the hope was that another top-notch receiver would make life easier for Williams. Sure enough, the Bucs went out and signed wide receiver Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55.55 million deal, but they didn’t sign him just to make things easier on Williams. Rather, the Bucs were trying to instill more confidence in quarterback Josh Freeman, and all the 5’s in Jackson’s contract were a tribute to Freeman, who wears jersey No. 5. And it looks like the Bucs have found that top-notch receiver in Jackson.
Jackson was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado and attended Widefield High School in the same city. In high school, Jackson was actually a straight-A student and was accepted into Columbia. However, Jackson excelled in both football and basketball in high school and opted to accept a partial scholarship to play football and basketball at Northern Colorado. Despite his success in both sports, Jackson wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, but was content with playing for Northern Colorado.
While attending the University of Northern Colorado, Jackson was able to break many of the school’s records. As a freshman, Jackson returned the first punt he ever touched for a score, which jumpstarted his college career. He went on to become Northern Colorado’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, kick return yards, punt return yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Jackson was selected 61st overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. He made the Pro Bowl twice while with the Chargers, and became quarterback Philip Rivers’ top target. However, the Chargers were unable to re-sign Jackson, so he signed with the Bucs on March 13, 2012.
Bucs GM Mark Dominik knew what he was getting when he signed Jackson, who is a deep threat and a strong, physical receiver. The Bucs had lacked this type of receiver before, so signing Jackson was going to be important for Freeman’s success. So far, it has been vital, as Freeman is having a much better season this year than he did in 2011. Freeman’s thrown for 3,192 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions, compared to 22 in 2011. Of course, Freeman’s success can be attributed to many things, but the addition of Vincent Jackson is probably chief among them. Jackson has 1,145 receiving yards and eight touchdowns this season, and has added the deep threat to the Bucs’ offense repertoire. The Bucs were aware that risk was involved in signing Jackson, because he had been in some off the field trouble, but they were convinced that Jackson was passed the mistakes and ready to make a huge impact on the field and play a big part in revitalizing the Bucs’ offense. And he’s delivered on the field so far, but also in the Tampa Bay community.
Jackson started the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation after moving to Tampa, which dedicates its efforts to children in military families that are growing up like he did. His foundation also focuses on the importance of education, but also shows that traveling in a military family can be stressful, which is why education is crucial for a successful future for so many kids.
The signing of Jackson seems to be another home run for Dominik, who has had a pretty successful run as of late.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.