Vincent Jackson

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson catches a pass during warm-ups before a game. —Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini, File

The family of Vincent Jackson, the retired three-time Pro Bowl NFL wide receiver who was found dead in a Florida hotel room Monday, donated his brain to researchers at Boston University to determine if he had chromic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma.

“Vincent being who he was would have wanted to help as many people as possible,” Allison Gorrell, a spokesperson for the Jackson family, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s something his family wanted to do to get answers to some of their questions.”

Many unanswered questions, including his cause of death, remain about Jackson’s demise. While it could take weeks to finish an autopsy, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a radio interview Wednesday that Jackson, 38, had health problems associated with alcoholism, which Chronister said were cited in the unreleased autopsy report. He also said the Jackson family told him that they believed that concussions may have been a factor in his behavior.

Gorrell said the sheriff did not speak for the family. CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously and researchers at Boston University, which houses the world’s largest brain bank devoted to cases involving the disease, said that determination can take months. The severity of a player’s CTE is related to the number of years that he played football and the number of hits he endured, researchers have found.

The brain bank has received a growing number of donations harvested from players who were 34 years old or younger at the time of death. More than half of those athletes had CTE.

A married father of four, Jackson was widely admired in and out of the NFL for his community service and business acumen. A 12-year NFL veteran who played with the San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jackson was voted Tampa Bay’s nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes community service, four years running during his five seasons there. He was a union representative in the NFL Players Association and one of the named plaintiffs when the union sued the league’s owners during the 2011 lockout.

After retiring from the NFL in 2018 at 35, he continued to help military families through the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation. He had not played since the 2016 season. Jackson’s father served in the U.S. Army and Jackson and his wife, Lindsey, wrote a series of children’s books about growing up in military families. He won the Distinguished Community Advocate Award in 2018 from the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

He had been cited for his smooth transition from the NFL into real estate development.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson was found at the Homewood Suites in Brandon, Florida, just a few miles east of Tampa, where hotel staff said he had been staying since Jan. 11. Jackson’s family reported that Jackson was missing Feb. 10. Two days later, sheriffs found him at the hotel and “after assessing Jackson’s well-being,” canceled the missing persons case.

A housekeeper found Jackson dead Monday morning.

The Chargers drafted Jackson in the second round in 2005, and after an injury-filled rookie year, he quickly became a mainstay of the team’s pass-first offense. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009, 2011, and again in 2012, his first season with the Buccaneers. He still holds the Buccaneers’ record for most receiving yards in a game, 216.

During his NFL career, he caught 57 touchdowns and had six seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards.

James Lofton, the Hall of Fame wide receiver, coached Jackson in San Diego and remembered Jackson as exceptionally bright and motivated. He recalled, too, when Jackson called him at 4:15 a.m. to apologize for his 2006 arrest.

“We are part of society, and the same ills that get people in society get us, too,” Lofton said of NFL players. “He just didn’t seem like the person who would have met a tragic death.”

Greg Camarillo, a former NFL receiver, was roommates with Jackson at the Chargers’ training camp in 2005 and now has a student support role in the University of San Diego athletics department. Camarillo said he was shaken by Jackson’s death and posted to Twitter several messages Monday about professional football players’ struggles in retirement.

Many players, Camarillo said, have difficulty coping after they leave the NFL because they lose their identity and find it difficult to forge a new path without it.

“It could happen to me or any former player,” Camarillo said in a phone interview Thursday. “Vince is not drastically different than anyone else, including me.”

The New York Times.

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