(05-21) 21:22 PDT — DeSean Jackson looked into the crowd of young faces at West Oakland’s McClymonds High School on Thursday, and it was a little jarring.
There was no crowd – maybe 100 kids in a big auditorium at a mostly empty school. The dropout rate at McClymonds is 70 percent, and the 400-plus kids enrolled have been hardened by things they’ve seen or experienced.
Jackson, the former Cal and current Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, is making the rounds delivering to students – and San Quentin inmates on Friday – a couple of messages. One, work hard and don’t lose sight of your dreams, and two, don’t be a bully, condone or even ignore bullying.
“I was sitting right where you are,” said Jackson, who grew up in the hardscrabble Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. “I knew people who died, saw the drugs and people doing what they had to do to get by. But I made something out of myself. I made something out of nothing.”
Jackson, who visited Palo Alto High after he went to San Quentin on Friday, urged the McClymonds kids to constantly try to make the right decision. “Thank you for coming to school today,” he said. “That was a good decision you made.”
Oakland rapper/entertainer Ray Luv and Cal football coach Jeff Tedford also spoke – Tedford of an alcoholic father who left when he was 9 years old.
“I know there’s challenges and I know you have dealt with adversity,” Tedford told the students. “You can have a poor attitude or a positive attitude about it. It’s all about developing the right habits, pushing forward.”
Jackson then addressed bullying, a topic he later admitted is a “tough sell” to kids who are “raised with bullying being a way of life, a way to survive – I was a bully when I was a kid.”
Jackson told the students about a 13-year-old Philadelphia boy who was beaten severely by six older kids. Nadin Khoury is his name, and he inspired Jackson’s newfound social activism when Jackson found out he was the kid’s idol.
When Nadin went on the TV show “The View” to raise awareness about bullying, Jackson surprised him there and gave him the Eagles jersey off his back.
“That little bro inspired me,” Jackson told the McClymonds students, before challenging any of the bullies in the crowd to come up on stage and talk to him.
“Bullying is not going to make your mom proud,” Jackson told the students. “It’s not going to pay your bills. It’s nothing to be proud of.”
Jackson and his brother, Byron, will next host the SportsRhythms Sports Academy Football Camp at Vacaville Christian Schools June 10-12. The camp is for kids in grades three through 12, and there are scholarships available.
Other than football training, Byron Jackson said, the camp will give kids “core values that will last a lifetime.” He and DeSean often refer to their “Five Principles” – Desire, Dreams, Vision, Belief and Power.
“DeSean Jackson came to tell us that hard work pays off, that dreams do come true,” McClymonds center Dione Green said. “It was great.”
For more information on the camp, visit www.sportsrhythms.net.
E-mail Vittorio Tafur at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page B – 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle