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Desean Jackson Opens Up About Mental Health, Love For Tupac & Playing For The Raiders

March 29, 2022

Read the full interview on AllHipHop.com!

It’s 2010 at New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey, and there are 14 seconds left on the clock. The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants are tied 31 to 31, with the former trailing behind the latter for the majority of the game. The Giants have the ball and punt it to the other side of the football field, only to have Desean Jackson deliver one of the most unforgettable, iconic punt returns in NFL history.

Not only did he first fumble the ball, but he picked it back up to run 65 yards into the touchdown line, leading his Eagles team to victory and advancing into the playoffs. Jackson also became the first player ever to win a football game via a punt return, as time expired on the clock.

And that’s just a testament to Jackson’s speed and talents on the field. With endless victories and record-breaking achievements, the Los Angeles native sets the bar for what exactly it takes for a professional athlete to excel in his sport, proving time and time again that hard work, dedication, and passion pays off in the end.

At 35 years old, Jackson heads into his 14th season with the NFL, currently on the Las Vegas Raiders after a short stint with the Los Angeles Rams. Having been selected twice to the Pro Bowl within his first 3 years in the league, Jackson has been deemed one of the most lethal wide receivers and return specialists of all time.

AllHipHop: How are you feeling?

Desean Jackson: I’m blessed. I’m alive. It’s a lot of things we could be complaining about, but we don’t do that ’cause it ain’t gonna do nothing. Ain’t nobody gon’ care, ain’t nobody give two you-know-what’s. So we’re rolling with the punches how they’re thrown, how they’re blown.

AllHipHop: How was your Tuesday?

Desean Jackson: My Tuesday was not the usual Tuesday. I’m usually off on Tuesday, but we play on Saturday this week so we actually had to work today. But it wasn’t too bad of a Tuesday, it was an easy Tuesday. It was good. Besides the weather, the weather’s ugly out here in Vegas.

AllHipHop: Right, it’s pouring in LA! What’s it like in Vegas?

Desean Jackson: It’s the desert, so it’s windy, stormy. Wind finna blow my house over I feel like. I got a TV outside. It’s damn near about to get blown off the… [laughs] It’s bad. It’s nice out here. You can find something for the low out here. No state taxes. It’s the place to be for sure.

AllHipHop: You’re still close to home. How are you settling in?

Desean Jackson: Well, LA’s LA. This year was my first time playing back in LA. It didn’t really work out, but I was fortunate enough to be able not move too far down the street. Like I said, I’m in Vegas. I’m settled. I got a nice lil spot out here overlooking the city. It don’t get no better than this. I love views. I’m a lover of views: ocean views, city views, mountain views. I love that type of s###.

AllHipHop: When you can wake up and feel inspired, right?

Desean Jackson: For sure. It’s something about the energy it gives you. In Vegas, see it’s stuff going on 24/7. I can literally look out here and imagine what’s going on in the casinos and the lights. [laughs] It’s crazy.

AllHipHop: Do you gamble?

Desean Jackson: Lil bit. I mess around a lil bit. I play cards and Roulette. I mess around a lil bit.

AllHipHop: I had Fatboy on my show… oh yeah! You had him on your podcast. How was it?

Desean Jackson: Fatboy SSE, he was cool man. We got a lot of similarities. He grew up similar to how I grew up, just on the opposite end of the world. But he was cool. He was telling me about his music. He was excited about this Blueface verse that he felt like was one of the hardest Blueface features. It was cool.

AllHipHop: You f### with Blueface?

Desean Jackson: Eh… his music’s cool. I ain’t gonna say I don’t f*ck with him. His music’s cool. I’m not no huge Blueface fan, but he’s cool. He’s for the youth, he’s for the young. He’s a lil younger, so it’s a different era. But he’s straight. He’s an LA dude, so I support all LA dudes for sure.

AllHipHop: Speaking of your podcast, I actually had Ricky Williams. I was telling him about your podcast and he would love to come on.

Desean Jackson: Oh yeah, for sure. I respect that dude. How was it?

AllHipHop: Phenomenal! The fact that he truly felt his purpose not playing football, but now doing astrology and cannabis, everything he was saying was resonating with my soul.

Desean Jackson: I was just watching the Football Life with him, NFL did A Football Life with him. He moved to Amsterdam, just got up and left and said forget football. His story’s interesting for sure. The reasons why he was smoking and doing what he was doing was bigger than people thinking he was addicted to marijuana. I respect it.

AllHipHop: He was excited when I said your name. This is so full circle!

Desean Jackson: [Laughs] Man when I was growing up, he was one of the top players in the NCAA. Came to the NFL, had a lot of success in the NFL. He’s a legendary dude.

AllHipHop: Take us back to 2010 against the Giants, there’s 14 seconds left on the clock. What’s going through your head?

Desean Jackson: For me, reliving that moment, that was hands-down one of the best moments of my career. Even though I’ve had a lot of big-time moments, but that one was special. Still to this day… I was on a Zoom call earlier, talking about my podcast with people who’s running it, and he’s a die-hard New York Giants fan. Every time I talk to him, he continuously brings it up. They’re devastated, they’ll forever be devastated. They’re like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe he did that to us!” For me man, I was living in the moment at that time. I don’t know how I did it or what I did, but it was one of those spiritual moments where I felt like I was on wings. [whistles] Scored a touchdown, and the world was in my hands.

AllHipHop: When did you know you could score? Because you fumbled it at first, which is wild to me.

Desean Jackson: Yeah, but I tell people all the time: that fumble was a set-up. Believe it or not! [Laughs] Nah, it wasn’t no set up. But I like to say it was because when I fumbled, the ball rolled to the right a lil bit. By the time I picked the ball up, all the dudes coming to tackle me were all the way to the right side. It seemed like a huge lane. Stepped my foot in the ground, went straight at that. [fake steps] Made a move, one of my boys blocked the dude. From there, it’s history.

AllHipHop: When did you know you were fast?

Desean Jackson: As a little kid, honestly. Growing up, being one of the fastest kids always on my team, striving to always be the best. For me, I look at it as work ethic. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been blessed to have speed and talent from God, but that doesn’t discredit the hard work I put into going out there and perfecting my craft every time I step on the field. I take pride in being one of the best to ever do it.

AllHipHop: I think this is what, your 14th season?

Desean Jackson: Damn, why you gonna make me feel that old? [Laughs] I’m just messing with you. It’s my 14th for sure.

AllHipHop: A huge part of the show is mental health. “Nearly 1 in 4 players reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, about one in 5 reported symptoms of both. Those with the longest careers, 10 seasons or more, had nearly double the likelihood of reporting cognitive issues than those with the shortest careers.” Heading into this 14th season, how is your mental health?

Me, I’m in a healed space. We all go through things. Individuals all go through things. Sometimes, the world or the perception is “oh we’re famous. We got all this money. We don’t have issues, we don’t have problems.” But them types of people encounter, deal with, and go through some of the worst pains, issues, and stress levels. It’s on and on and on. It’s more about the lifestyle.

When I was a young kid, I was playing sports for the love. Not to say I don’t love it now, but I didn’t know no better. I’m doing what a kid wants to do: having fun in the park, just being a lil rough and hard-headed dude. The perception and the reality of someone that’s successful and made a lot of money, celebrity-ness… the world perceives it as us not going through real-life issues. We don’t endure real-life feelings, hurt, and pain because of whatever the case may be. For me, the reason why I use the word “healed” is because I’ve been through a lot. Been through a lot of backstabbing situations, not literally but literally, with people that were close. Family friends who I thought had my back, betrayed me and really didn’t have my back. They were only there for their own interests or benefit, and that’s hurtful.

You live a life, you work so hard be it if that’s financially, time, energy you spend into that. To share that with people and for them to not be authentic with their real intentions and feelings behind it is very hurtful. For me, I’ve accepted it for what it is. I don’t like to live and hold grudges. That’s bad with anxiety, stress, all types of things. For me, if you owe me money or you ever did anything to me, wish you well.y You can have it, keep it. I’m not in need of nothing. I’m blessed, I’m alive. Life is good for me. With that being said, day in and day out, I meditate. I focus on breathing, I stretch. Just clear the mind, because it’s so much stuff we go through on a basis that it’s good to relieve it and release.

AllHipHop: Ricky said he meditates for 2 hours before each day. What are your thoughts on that? How long do you meditate for?

Desean Jackson: Honestly, to each their own. I salute him for that. Honestly me, I need to really work on doing it more throughout the day. Mine is more spur-of-the-moment, when I’m in need or when I feel it. But you don’t always want to wait till then. You want to get into a routine where you can prevent a nervous breakdown or certain things like that. It’s good for your body in general, to breathe and take deep breaths. For me, it’s not really a set time or an everyday thing, it’s periodically. But I definitely need to work on it more.

AllHipHop: Last time we talked, you said you had a lot of people to take care of. How many people do you have to take care of?

Desean Jackson: My list cut down for sure now. Back then, it was a little different. Back in the summer, I was back home and living a different lifestyle. But once the season started, I shrank it a little bit. Probably 8 to 10 people. Not too bad. I got kids, moms, brothers, sisters, you’re just looking out.

AllHipHop: Is that a paper clip bracelet?

Desean Jackson: It’s a safety pin! You gotta pin yourself, it’s all about safety in life. Living, check yourself. That’s my philosophy, you gotta be safe out here. The world we live in is crazy. You’re in LA, I know you see all the stuff going on. It’s crazy out here. You don’t know what the hell’s going on nowadays. You gotta protect your energy, protect your spirit, protect your space. It’s real.

AllHipHop: Your first football game you went to was at the Coliseum against the Raiders. Now, you’re going back to the black and silver. How does it feel?

Desean Jackson: Honestly man, I never really envisioned it. I never could predict this, but it just shows how much God works. He’s in your favor, he’s always pulling for me. I’m blessed for the opportunity. I was 8 or 9 when I went to that game at the Coliseum. My older brother used to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, he had a relationship with the head coach at the time. They were in LA playing there. We went to the game. We got on the sidelines, took pictures with a few cheerleaders. It was poppin’, you couldn’t tell me nothing. Lil pretty Asian, lil pretty white cheerleaders, ayeee. [laughs] I was on the sidelines going crazy. This what it’s like? Alright, I’m a be here one day.

AllHipHop: What did you see that day that made you fall in love with football?

Desean Jackson: I was already in love with football that day. It’s almost like being an artist or a rapper. When you on stage and you performing, it’s almost like the whole world is looking at you. It’s something about that feeling. When I was sitting there on the sidelines, man all these people are here watching. They’re die-hard fans of some of these players. I felt like the players playing were almost bigger than the world. It triggered me like “When I get the chance, whatever I need to do, I’m a do it the right way so I can get there.” That’s what made me head in the right way, just knew it was possible to make it.

AllHipHop: How was it seeing your brother play for the Chiefs?

Desean Jackson: For me, I was young. My older brother, he played only 2 years. He was more of a developmental practice ball player. He was never really a starter or a pro-baller. I used to always give my brother a hard time like, “You made it, but I’m a get there and be way better than you. I’m a be a pro baller.” [laughs] I was talking s### early. I’m like “watch, you’ll see.” That was the swag, I was a cocky, bad lil kid. I just had the swagger. I knew everything I could talk, I could back it up.

AllHipHop: Did you ever have a spiritual awakening, the moment you realized meditating was it for you?

Desean Jackson: I didn’t necessarily have a certain situation or time where I felt myself from the meditating, or anything in my life. I think I’ve accomplished and overcame so much adversity… you know how you say something is destined? It’s a purpose or it’s meant to happen almost? It’s been that way for me. Through every step of the way, it’s been about turning a negative into a positive. Whatever that negative was, it always turned into a positive.

Throughout the way, I was always too small. I wasn’t good enough. “I’m never gonna make it to this level.” Then when I made it to this level, “Oh, I’m never gonna make it to the next level.” It was always a challenge, somebody hating or somebody saying that I couldn’t do it. After I was up one, check, I came out of the next one. At every step of the way, you’re crossing off that checklist. Alright, now what? Now what they gon’ say? I done got the records, I got 2 more to get another record. What can you even say?

AllHipHop: What record means the most? Because you have so many.

Desean Jackson: Well, I’m not quite ready to answer that right now. Once I get this one record, then I’ll be able to… honestly, it might be the one I’m chasing right now. But I don’t want to predict it too soon because I still gotta go get it. [Laughs]

AllHipHop: How does it feel to have your own Fade The Booth podcast? You got to interview Lil Wayne!

Desean Jackson: Lil Wayne was dope. I got a real personal relationship with Lil Wayne. That’s my big bro. I grew up with Carter I, Carter II, Carter III…

AllHipHop: I was gonna ask your favorite Carter!

Desean Jackson: Probably Carter I man. Carter II hard too, but I’m old school Lil Wayne. The first 3 honestly, I, II, and III are all up there with me. I got a personal relationship with Tunechi, and the interview was dope. I really got to find out some things I didn’t really know about. He opened up and talked about a lot of things he grew up seeing, he shot himself. His pops wasn’t around, he talked about his OGs in the neighborhood that he grew up with. He talked about how his mom was to him and his lil brother. He went in-depth. Everybody who hasn’t seen it yet and wants to know about Lil Tunechi, go check it out. That was a special interview.

AllHipHop: I love that your whole thing is to inspire and motivate people. How does it feel to be talking to the same people that inspired you? Now you’re in this position to do it.

Desean Jackson: It’s a dream come true. I’ve never really been satisfied. I’ve never really surprised myself. The reason why I say that is because I try to shoot for the stars. At any given time, I’m trying to shoot for the stars. I continuously want to go out and do great things in the world. I want to motivate, I want to encourage, I want to uplift people. All my s### I do is about being real and authentic to me.

Because being a professional athlete, sometimes the narrative or the story could change to the perception of these bloggers, whatever they want to be called. They make their stories. So for m, with my podcast, I get to determine what I talk about. I get to determine what I want to say, when I want to say it. Not to say I’m not in the spotlight because I’m always under a spotlight, but it’s to the T of I want to talk about.

AllHipHop: I was talking to Ricky about how much the media affected him, because he has social anxiety. You have eyes on you at all times. How has the media affected you?

Desean Jackson: Honestly, I can say it. They painted a picture of me that wasn’t what it was. I grew up how I grew up, I’m from where I’m from and I can’t change that. They portrayed an image that I was this street, criminal, hood dude. They made me seem like I was a felon, I done been to prison and I had done all this crazy stuff in the streets. It was crazy.

But once again, I learned from it. I was young. I posted things on Instagram, hanging out with friends and certain things. But in the business world sometimes, you gotta be careful what you put out there because some people don’t know how to handle it. I could be hanging out with my boys that I grew up with since I was a lil kid, and the viewer might think “Oh, they ain’t nothing but a bunch of criminals.” Once again, I’ve never been a felon. I never went to jail. I have no record, I’m squeaky clean. It’s funny how they see things and how they portray these images of these people.

AllHipHop: You were in the Tupac film, All Eyez On Me! Is it true you invested in the film too?

Desean Jackson: Yeah, I had a lil part in there. It didn’t do what we expected it to do, but it made sense.

AllHipHop: What did you expect it to do?

Desean Jackson: It ain’t even just me. Everybody a part of the film — from Morgan Creek to Benny Boom and L.T. Hutton, all the people that involved me in it — projected it to go crazy. They damn near broke even or made a lil less back. I think $30 million or somewhere in that range, what was all put into the film. We were expecting it to be $100 million, that’s Tupac! But for me, regardless of the money, it was an honor for me to be a part of something like that with Tupac. Because I’m a die-hard Tupac fan, he’s one of my all-time favorites. How he inspired me as a young kid when I was going through it in the streets, when I had adversities, I threw on them headphones and listened to that Pac. He got me through a lot of things when I was younger.

AllHipHop: That was The Eminem Show for me!

Desean Jackson: I’m telling you. “Dear Mama”? Psttt. My mom and dad broke up, they split up. My mom moved to Atlanta and I stayed in LA with my dad. Initially I went to Atlanta, but I couldn’t really do it because the sports weren’t that good, so I came back to LA with my dad. I remember being a little kid, torn in between my mother and my father, sitting in the car one day and “Dear Mama” came on. My mom was in Atlanta, I was in LA with my pops, I was just crying out my eyes, it was tough. But that “Dear Mama” got me through a lot of things for sure.

AllHipHop: Any other close-runner ups for your favorite Tupac song?

Desean Jackson: “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” “Hail Mary,” “Changes.” Don’t get me started on Tupac, I can go all day.

AllHipHop: What was your dad’s impact on you? I know he played a big role as well.

Desean Jackson: Aw man s###, without my pops, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. Not to say my mom didn’t play a part too, but pops knew what he was doing. People said he was crazy and didn’t understand nothing, but without pops, he was the focal point. He was driven, meter, he was everything. I credit him for sure.

AllHipHop: Talk about creating a foundation for pancreatic cancer.

Desean Jackson: Back in 2009, me and my mother came together. It was a devastating loss we took with my pops. Throughout that process, seeing my dad go through what he went through, it wasn’t really too much science and information on pancreatic cancer. For me, man I don’t want people to have to go through that. It takes out 75% of African American people. For me, I had to go back to it and start a foundation, try to find research and everything. It was tough, it was a tough process.

AllHipHop: What are those convos with Jerry Rice like?

Desean Jackson: Jerry Rice was a motivator. When I first made it to the NFL, I had a chance to workout with him. He’s one of the best to ever play. For me to be critiqued by him and him telling me I only had one issue out of all my routes, wow. He could’ve told me every route was an issue and he could’ve fixed it, but he’s like, “Nah, just one route. You need to do this on this one route, then everything else I don’t see no issue.” Wow, that’s big.

AllHipHop: What’re you most excited for next?

Desean Jackson: Life. Prosperity. Giving good energy out to the universe and receiving it back in. You receive what you put out. I give love, I share love, and I share insight. For me, continuously going out there and motivating the youth. Wanting to see the youth be better than what we are currently because the youth is our future. I’m blessed and look forward to continuously being that guy out there. Whenever you see me, holla at your boy! Don’t be afraid. People are like, “You look like you’re mad!” Nah, I don’t really open up until I know you’re on some positivity. So if you give out positivity, you must receive.

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