Friends and teammates said former Chargers star Vincent Jackson would be remembered not only for his game between the lines but off the field, especially how he helped military families.
The 38-year-old husband and father was found dead in a room at the Homewood Suites in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area where he retired. Hillsbrorough County Sheriff’s investigators said a housekeeper found him and that he had no obvious injuries at the time of his death.
Before Jackson played a down for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was making spectacular catches with the San Diego Chargers after they drafted him in 2005.
Greg Camarillo was his rookie roommate with the Bolts.
“Through football you form a bond,” said Camarillo, former Chargers wide receiver and NBC 7 Football Night in San Diego analyst. “You become brothers. You know, it’s tough to deal with the loss of a brother.”
That brotherhood forged on the field sadly ended Monday morning.
“As a fellow dad, it breaks my heart that his children won’t have him there,” Camarillo said.
Jackson’s death hit his former Chargers teammates especially hard.
Shawne Merriman tweeted a picture of Jackson during their rookie season, writing, in part, “You come in as teammates and you leave as brothers. Some things are hard to understand and hard to figure out why, but I’m not questioning God’s plans.”
During a fan event back in 2009 Jackson was heard saying, “Events like this are good to come out and get more personal with them and take the helmet off.“
It’s easy to understand why the three-time Pro Bowler became a fan favorite while in San Diego where he met his wife, Lindsey.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, whose department is investigating the case, posted a statement online. “Mr. Jackson was a devoted man who put his family and community above everything else. Football aside, he touched countless lives through his Jackson In Action 83 Foundation,” a nonprofit organization taht helps support military families.
Camarillo remembers Jackson’s caring heart, obvious even before Jackson started the foundation.
“He would take his time to work in the community,” Camarillo said. “He came from a military family. He created a nonprofit that worked with military families, and, you know, in San Diego, that really hits home .”
Home for Jackson the past month had become the Homewood Suites.
According to sheriff’s investigators, he’d lived there since Jan. 11. But on Feb. 10 family reported him missing. Deputies canceled the case on Feb. 12 after they they spoke to Jackson at the hotel.
The medical examiner’s office is working to determine what caused his death.
The Chargers released a statement on Monday:
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by news of Vincent Jackson’s sudden passing. Vincent was a fan favorite not only for his Pro Bowl play on the field but for the impact he made on the community off it. The work he has done on behalf of military families through his foundation in the years since his retirement has been an inspiration to all of us. We simply cannot believe he is gone, and our hearts go out to his wife, Lindsey, their children, his parents, former teammates and everyone whose lives were touched by having known Vincent.”