SAMOHI — Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson made a surprise appearance Saturday at Santa Monica High School’s orientation for incoming freshmen football players in the wake of a recent racial bullying incident involving a pair of wrestlers.
Jackson, who is an advocate against bullying and once a victim himself, spoke to the recent middle school graduates about confidence, staying positive and discouraging bullying, as they prepare to enter high school.
The NFL star, who grew up in Los Angeles, told the incoming freshmen to not pay attention to criticism while achieving their goals and spoke from his personal experience.
“I’ve been playing football since I was 7 years old and people always said that I was too small. People always tried to bully me, but I just really had confidence in myself,” said Jackson. “Whatever it is, as you in society, stay positive and stay away from the negativity.”
For Jackson, there are consequences for bullies.
“Bullying … is not going to pay your bills or take care of your family,” Jackson said. “Playing around with your friends and making someone suffer, that’s really not going to get you anywhere in life.”
Jackson has been speaking at schools during the off-season to launch his new program, DeSean Against Bullying,
He appeared on the television talk show “The View” five months ago with some of his fellow Eagles and gave inspiring words to Nadin Khoury, a 13-year-old teen who was brutally bullied in Upper Darby, Penn. Through that experience, Jackson said that he sympathizes with the racially bullied teen at Samohi.
“It’s really unfair … I really want to encourage the kid to stay positive,” Jackson said. “Hopefully he doesn’t have to go through it anymore. I’m very sorry and it’s unfortunate that he went through it.”
The head coach of Samohi’s football team, Travis Clark, organized Jackson’s visit and believes the orientation helped incoming freshmen to be prepared and feel secure about the new school year.
“These are eighth graders who are coming into high school, they’re going to feel safe and protected and be able to tell somebody when something happens, because we don’t allow that here,” Clark said.
Incoming freshman Avondre Kelly walked away from the orientation feeling confident.
“Even if I am [bullied], I’m not going to be quiet about it, I’m going to let someone know what happened,” said the 14-year-old who doesn’t believe he’ll be bullied.
Kelly felt that Jackson’s words meant a lot, especially since he is not just anybody.
“I thought it was a good thing to hear from someone who’s important,” Kelly said.
Clark takes a serious interest in his athletes and thinks it is important they are protected in school, especially with the recent concerns.
“Obviously everyone’s heard about what’s going on in the schools and it’s really prevalent these days, there’s a lot of bullying going on and its just not good,” he said. “When the kids are away from their parents, we have to protect them.”