TAMPA, Fla. — Vincent Jackson, a giant on and off the field, is holding a special place in the hearts of Buccaneers fans.
Following the 38-year old’s death, memories are pouring in of the legacy Jackson left on and off the field.
“He was one of our top players. Just a stand-up person. Everybody respected him. He was on and off the field just a true pro’s pro,” said Ernie Withers.
Withers started going to Bucs games in 1976. He hasn’t missed following along a preseason or regular-season game since. But through all that time, Jackson provided a special moment for him and his grandson.
“When you have your favorite football players and they’re your heroes and you buy their jerseys, and especially when you’re able to do that for your grandson and that’s his favorite player, there’s just something that’s special and Vincent Jackson was a special player,” Withers said.
The memories are easy to come by for fans with actions that said it all.
“He was just such a nice, cordial, soft-spoken guy. A leader,” said Larry Gasparino.
He recalled watching him at training practices.
“Vincent Jackson you could tell right away took him under his wing and kind of taught him the ropes and practiced like 100 percent every day,” he said.
But what he did after practice spoke volumes, too.
“He would stay after training camp practice and sign every little kid's autograph that was waiting in line he wouldn’t leave he was such a great guy,” said Gasparino.
Those encounters stood out then for fans, and still stand out now.
“I actually got a picture with him me and my son my oldest son and but yeah he was always a super nice guy and always had time for us fans,” said Jon Hinkle.
Off the field, many recalled his dedication to helping the community.
“He was our go-to guy. Again, for what he did not only for the team but what he did for the military and the community. You know he just went above and beyond,” said Withers
Though heartbroken, fans are holding onto Jackson’s lasting impact.
“It’s nice when players are that big on the field but they’re an even bigger influence off it,” said Hinkle.