On the field Bills running back Fred Jackson supports his teammates with supreme personal effort and leadership as a co-captain. Ask any leader of a Western New York community organization about Jackson's contributions off the field and their description of him would be much the same. Those efforts are why Jackson was named the recipient of the Jefferson Award Foundation's award for Greatest Public Service by an Athlete.
From Division III to the NFL, Fred Jackson has seen it all in his football career. Congrats on a remarkable career.
Jackson was on hand at Gotham Hall in New York City to accept the award.
"I'm extremely excited and proud of it," Jackson told buffalobills.com. "As professional athletes we have an obligation to get out and be in the community and do things for the community so they know that we appreciate all their support. To get an award for it is icing on the cake."
The veteran running back has been a big supporter of community causes in Western New York since Jackson arrived in Buffalo back in 2005. Already this year's Bills nominee for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award, Jackson is a participant for the Food Bank of Western New York, a spokesman for the United Way, the Billieve campaign for breast cancer awareness and the NFL Play 60 program for youth fitness awareness.
Jackson has also been involved with other WNY causes including ECMC's breast cancer awareness program, the Program for Understanding Childhood Concussions and Stroke (PUCCS) and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute's Carly's Club for pediatric cancer patients.
"He has become a sort-of super hero to our kids who are battling cancer. Fred is more than a committed supporter of Carly's Club, the pediatric division of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, which offers support programs for young cancer patients and raises funds for pediatric cancer research," said Robin Nusbaum program director of the Roswell Park Alliance. "He has stepped up to help raise critically needed funds for Carly's Club in numerous ways. Equally important, he has put smiles on our patients' faces by providing them and their families with tickets to Buffalo Bills home games. We are very grateful to him for his support, generosity and friendship."
Jackson's work with children in particular traces back to his first career out of college before he embarked on a long and winding journey to an NFL career. He was a youth counselor for two years after graduating from Coe College with a sociology degree with a focus on child development.
"When you have an opportunity to work with kids and see how much you mean to them and mentor them in life and you get a chance to take that to another level," said Jackson. "I would say my time as a youth counselor helped to mold me into the person I am today off the field more than anything. Having that experience and that background is something that definitely keeps me motivated to do more for our community and any community that I'm in."
Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, a 2012 recipient of the Jefferson Award, isn't the least bit surprised that Jackson was named the recipient of the award having witnessed his efforts first-hand in Western New York.
"He is so selfless in his commitment to community service. He approaches his community service the same way he plays football," said Kelly. "It is never about him; it's always about what is best for the team and for those around him. Freddy epitomizes the kind of NFL player we all want to see in action both on and off the field. He is such a role model for both the Buffalo Bills and the entire NFL community. I am very proud of him."
Despite all of his personal efforts, Jackson is cognizant of the fact that he would not be able to help as many people and organizations as he does without having help of his own, chiefly his wife Danielle.
"I've had a lot of people guiding me in certain situations and support me and point me in the right direction throughout all my off the field efforts. That includes my wife," said Jackson. "She is the reason I'm in the community as much as I am. She's behind me motivating me and finding things I can go out and be a part of.
"I want people to know that I'm not just accepting this award on my behalf, but on the behalf of a lot of people who are in my life who have helped to mold me into this player off the field that people respect and love."
*The Jefferson Awards Foundation is the country's longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to activating and celebrating public service. Through our programs JAF trains and empowers individuals to serve and lead in their communities, amplifying their impact through our vast network of media partners, mentors and volunteers. To learn more about the Jefferson Awards Foundation, visit: **JeffersonAwards.org*