TAMPA — Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson has caught more than 500 passes over 11 seasons in the NFL, has opened restaurants, owned fitness centers, invested in real estate and, last Saturday, he added another line to his resume: college graduate.
Jackson, 33, sat in cap and gown among the proud graduates at USF's spring graduation ceremonies, having finished the degree — a bachelor of science degree from the university's Muma College of Business, where he has taken classes for the past two years.
"I really enjoyed it this time. I did really well. I think I had more of a desire," he said. "Sometimes as a student, you're trying to pass a class. As a professional now, I felt more of a desire to pick up the information and retain it."
When Jackson entered the NFL draft in 2005, he was about one semester short of graduating at Northern Colorado, and took a few distance-learning classes when he was with the San Diego Chargers. When he signed with the Bucs in 2012, eyeing life after football, he sought to finish that degree.
Football season makes taking fall classes impossible, but he has taken a class or two each spring and summer — he never sat in auditoriums with the general student body, but he'd go to campus twice a week, meeting with professors as in an independent study.
"They made sure I was on the same track as their classrooms," said Jackson, who took gen-ed classes like statistics and accounting, as well as business courses in management, international business and financial analysis.
Early in his NFL career, Jackson said he made small investments in businesses, more to gain an understanding of how they worked, and more recently has been interested in getting directly involved in day-to-day operations.
"I've always had an interest in whatever I'm in investing. I didn't want to take my hands off the wheel," he said. "I feel I have a right as a shareholder to understand what's going on. I've always asked the people that actually run the business, whatever it may be. I want to be educated. I kind of demand that."
Jackson has been named the Bucs' Man of the Year three years in a row, with his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation active in helping military families, especially at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base. He is entering the final season of a five-year, $55 million deal he signed in 2012, proud to finish a free-agent contract in an NFL economy where many players are released before they are able to finish a lucrative, long-term deal.
If he gets 866 receiving yards this season, he'll become the Bucs' all-time career leader in receiving yards, and with 69 catches, he'll have the most receptions of any receiver in team history.
Jackson said he hasn't decided whether 2016 will be his final season, but would like to continue playing beyond this fall, and hopes to retire in Tampa.
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"I love Tampa. I would love to retire here — I've put my roots here," he said. "I plan on staying, no matter what happens with football. I plan on making this home for a while. But that will be a family and a business decision, once free agency hits (next spring) and whatever happens with the Bucs, if it doesn't happen during the season, like some sort of extension. I'm just happy to be playing this year."