"My neck of the woods was rough. Kids not going to school, gang-banging on every corner, people killing people. I saw all of that."
The past couple weeks have been a rough ride for DeSean Jackson. Rumors and speculation have swirled around the All-Pro receiver, and none of it had to do with his prowess on the football field. The long-time Eagles wideout was cut by his team, and pundits immediately began citing Jackson's alleged ties to SoCal gang members as the reason.
We've actually spent considerable time with Jackson, and we know all about the gang that surrounds him. But our story about his crew and his continuing ties to people from his past is quite different from the one you'll find in other media outlets over the past several days.
DeSean Jackson was 9 years old when he became the "made man" of the Jackson Gang. It was right around the time that his older brother Byron gave up on his NFL dreams. It was time for Jackson to step up for his family. Only he escaped the street life that was trapping so many around him to pursue a more promising future.
Jackson says, "I didn't want to be a negative person in life. I wanted to be positive. So instead of doing something negative on the streets, I wanted to do my homework or go to the park in the summer to play football, because I knew what that lane had to offer.
"When things didn't work out for my brother, it was like I was the next big thing," Jackson says. "Team Jackson came together, and it was like 'we're going to put this little dude on the pedestal and do whatever we need to get him to play in the NFL'—which, at the end of the day, was my dad's dream. We just happened to be the characters that played in his dream."
Those characters were instrumental in Jackson's ascent from Army All-American and star player at Long Beach Poly High School to one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL.
Today, the bonds that shaped Team Jackson are stronger than ever.
After signing a three-year deal on Wednesday with the Washington Redskins, Jackson returned home to Long Beach. On Thursday, he posted a video on Instagram with the caption "#Workout Flow Grind Mode !!" which shows him on the UCLA campus performing resisted speed and plyo drills.
Jackson is training with his long-time speed coach, Gary Cablayan, who along with Byron Jackson form the foundation and advisory committee for the Jackson organization.
His brother Byron, says, "There was a whole village of people who helped DeSean get to where he is today."
DeSean says, "They've trained me my whole life. This is the team that developed me into who I am today."
STACK caught up with Jackson for an off-season speed training feature at Veteran's Memorial Stadium on the campus of Long Beach City College. "The Vet" was his home field at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. It's also where he declared for the 2008 NFL Draft.
Check the video above and the photos below to meet the real Team Jackson.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock