By FRANK WARD
Tucked away in the midst of a serene Moorestown, NJ, neighborhood is a stretch of plush green fields doubling as football practice fields on a breezy summer afternoon.
The weather seemed more appropriate for a day at the Jersey Shore, yet the sounds of children laughing while honing football skills with friends echoed throughout the grounds behind a local grade school. Some kids were clearly focused on the task at hand, and others danced playfully to sounds of Tupac’s Dear Mama and B.O.B.’s new hit Airplanes being played in the background while waiting to run their routes.
This scene isn’t much different from that in areas throughout the Greater Philadelphia Region during the first full week off from school for kids everywhere. Except, in this case, a two-position NFL Pro Bowler was in the midst of the festivities.
Eagles stud wideout DeSean Jackson was busy instructing kids on football and life with the grace and ease he displays when going up against the Brian Dawkins, Darrelle Revis, Asante Samuels and Champ Baileys of the NFL. DJacc looked as calm and comfortable surrounded by a group of young kids as he does going across the middle in the NFL. Ask any parent or schoolteacher, and they’ll tell you holding court with a hundred youngsters is far from an easy task.
Jackson, his camp counselors and coaches did an excellent job maintaining order and getting their points across — whether it was talking football or life.
For the wideout who grew up in Compton, teaching kids life skills and giving them the tools to succeed is just as important as beating any corner for a 50-yard score that ignites 65,000 people to a roaring state of euphoria.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be here with the youth to teach them about football and life,” Jackson told WWW.DailyPhiladelphian.com in an interview on Thursday afternoon. “It’s great to be around young kids and give them hope.”
He continued to talk about helping kids gain tools to succeed in sports and life.
“It’s important to motivate kids,” said Jackson. “I just want to get out to kids that success is not easy. You can’t just say this is what I’m going to do. A lot of people don’t follow through on the steps to be successful. They have a goal, but they don’t take the proper steps.
“I try to make sure they conduct themselves in a well-mannered way and motivate them, whether that’s by speaking at schools, donating cleats or giving books to classrooms.”
The football camp — the first of what Jackson hopes to be an yearly event — served as the perfect backdrop to reach youngsters with his message. Nearly 100 kids attended this year’s weeklong event and received coaching from fellow NFLers such as Jeremy Maclin and LeSean “Shady” McCoy. Jackson wants to continue holding a camp annually in the Philly region as well as in California, his home state.
If there’s one thing Jackson hopes kids realize through his words and actions it’s that hard work and maintaining a proper business attitude are important to success whether the kids are lucky enough to make it to the NFL or they are working in the business world in the future. To Jackson, the two worlds are certainly not exclusive of one another.
“You don’t expect it, but the league is a business. It’s like any 9-5 job,” said Jackson. “Kids think you just show up and play. But, you have to train, watch and study tape and make wise decisions.
“It’s a business. It’s easy to get off track. When you’re a pro athlete, a lot of people pull you this way or that way. At the end of the day, you just have to make the best decision for your life. If someone’s telling you not to focus on work and to go party, they’re probably not the right person to hang with. You have to pick and choose what’s important to you and your future.”
Surely, while Jackson talked from his experiences in getting to the NFL and becoming one of the elite players at his position, the same advice applies to kids growing up in any environment and that’s what he tries to get across to them. They need to start developing a successful mindset when it comes to doing well in school or respecting parents at home.
If the campers simply follow Jackson’s advice and the example he sets, they’ll be doing The Jerk after scoring touchdowns on the football field or closing deals in the business world.
For more information on DeSean Jackson’s career and community efforts, log on to DeSeanJackson10.com.