Former NFL standout Vincent Jackson found dead in hotel room

Police in the US state of Florida are investigating the death of former NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was found dead on Monday morning (Tuesday NZT) by a housekeeper in a hotel room near Tampa.

A cause of death has not yet been determined, but the sheriff's office said there were no signs of trauma.

News of the death of the former player, who turned 38 last month, hit hard in the Tampa area, where he was known for his off-the field works as well as his performances on the field, as well as San Diego, where he also played.

"We are all mourning the loss of our beloved Vincent," Allison Stokes Gorrell, a Jackson family spokesperson, told the Tampa Bay Times.

"During his five seasons with our franchise, Vincent was a consummate professional, who took a great deal of pride in his performance on and off the football field," Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement.

"Vincent was a dedicated father, husband, businessman and philanthropist, who made a deep impact on our community through his unyielding advocacy for military families, supported by the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation."

According to the sheriff's office, Jackson had been staying at the Homewood Suites in Brandon, near Tampa, since checking in January 11. A missing-persons report for Jackson was filed by family members Thursday, but the sheriff's office said it was cancelled after officers spoke with him and assessed his well-being the next day.

"My heart aches for the many loved ones Vincent Jackson leaves behind, from his wife and children to the Buccaneers nation that adored him," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said on Twitter.

"Mr Jackson was a devoted man who put his family and community above everything else.”

Jackson played 12 seasons in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making the Pro Bowl in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and last playing in 2016, when a torn ACL limited him to five games. He holds Tampa Bay records for the most receiving yards in a game (216) and longest reception (95 yards), both set in a 2012 game against the New Orleans Saints.

One of the NFL's more reliable wide receivers, Jackson had six seasons with more than 1000 receiving yards over a seven-year span from 2008 through 2014. He had 540 catches for 9,80 yards and 57 touchdowns over his career.

"It pains me to see this happen to such a great person at such a young age," Gerald McCoy, a former defensive tackle with the Buccaneers, told the Tampa Bay Times in a text message.

"A person who was more than a football player, he was a great husband and father who spent his life trying to help other people. Spreading love and joy and doing everything in his power to make the next man smile. Somebody I considered to be more than a team-mate, he was truly a friend and one of my mentors in my young age of the NFL.

"My nickname for him was 'the ultimate pro' because he did everything right. Off the field, nutrition, taking care of his body, working out, off-season, practice habits and especially on game day. He was a true example of how we should be as professionals and more importantly men. He will truly be missed!! Love you Jack!!"

Last year, Jackson was named to Business Observer's "40 under 40" list. The publication quoted Jackson as saying he had a smooth transition into his post-retirement career, which included real estate development and his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, a nonprofit he established to support military families.

Both of Jackson's parents served in the US armed forces and had written Danny Dogtags, a series of children's books about growing up in military families who frequently moved.

"Being able to retire on my own accord was a blast," he said. "A lot of guys don't get that luxury. You're either getting released or cut, or you have an injury and the decision goes right out of your hands."

In a question-and-answer section of that article, Jackson said "being a dad" was his favourite off-hours activity and that he had been spending more time with his family during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson is survived by his wife, Lindsey, and four children. In five years with Tampa Bay, he was named Buccaneers man of the year four times.

Remembrances from stunned former team-mates and acquaintances began to circulate on social media as the news spread on Monday (Tuesday NZT) and provided an indication of how he touched their lives.

"I am shocked and saddened by this loss to not only the player community, but to me personally," DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted.

"Vincent was a friend who always understood what it meant to lead. I will miss him and my condolences go out to all his family and friends. #RIPVJax"

Mike Evans, one of the wide receivers on the Buccaneers' Super Bowl team, tweeted: "V Jax thank you for everything I love you big bro. Praying for your family Rest in Paradise"

Tight end Michael Brate, like Evans a present-day player on the Buccaneers and a team-mate of Jackson's for three seasons, told the Tampa Bay Times that Vincent "made a profound impact on everyone in the locker room and so many people in the community."

The Chargers, who drafted Jackson out of Northern Colorado in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft, said in a statement that "Vincent was a fan favourite, not only for his Pro Bowl play on the field but for the impact he made on the community off it.

“The work he has done on behalf of military families through his foundation in the years since his retirement has been an inspiration to all of us. We simply cannot believe he's gone."