Despite what DeSean Jackson might lead you to believe, he didn't go straight from high school to the NFL.
Rather, he spent three years playing college football, was an All-American, an All-Pac-10 first teamer, and even a viable Heisman Trophy candidate at one point.
But without fail, every Sunday this season millions of football fans across America watched as the 172-pound speedster spurned the university where he once hung his jersey.
During in-game introductions for the Philadelphia Eagles offense, Jackson—wearing a longish goatee and tough-guy scowl—lists Long Beach Poly as his school instead of Cal.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist John Crumpacker says it's because of a perceived slight during the 2008 NFL Draft. Projected as a first-rounder, Jackson dropped to the second after Golden Bears insiders painted him as uncoachable and disinterested in the team concept.
"I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, but I know it had to come from Cal somewhere," Jackson told the Chronicle. "It really hurt my feelings. It's no disrespect to Cal. I just feel coming from Long Beach Poly was a huge step for me to make it to the NFL."
Two years later, Jackson's gesture does nothing to refute the draft-day accusations.
If anything, it reflects a history of unabashed arrogance.
Bruce Feldman detailed USC's recruiting visit to the Jackson household in the August 2007 issue of ESPN the Magazine:
PETE CARROLL AND THREE assistants in USC golf shirts sit in the Jackson family living room, each giving a pitch for what should be an easy sell: "Let's go, you know you wanna be a Trojan." "DeSean, you grew up a diehard Trojans fan"…"You can be USC's game-breaker once Reggie leaves for the NFL." But when DeSean asks to wear No. 1, Carroll says, "Hey, it's not about the number. We want you to come to SC because we want you to be a Trojan." The coaches are shown out, and DeSean and his dad, Bill, discuss the visit. Maybe, DeSean reasons, Carroll has promised the number to Patrick Turner, a wideout from Nashville. "They're taking me for granted," he says. And no one disagrees.
Talent-wise, DeSean Jackson might be one of the best, if not the best, recruits in Cal football history. But the same divisive, self-indulged personality that led him to the Golden Bears and his precious No. 1 jersey is the one that still keeps him at arm's length from the program.
Now an Eagle, and part of a league that breeds "me-first" wideouts, could Jackson's ego help implode the Philadelphia Eagles? His talent is undeniable, but at what point does his unbounded self-righteousness become a dangerous aspect of his personality?
Terrell Owens has been largely responsible for setting locker room fires with both the Dallas Cowboys (now a model for chemistry and character) and the Eagles, and in the end likely did more harm than good with both organizations.
Following a Pro Bowl regular season, Jackson turned in a three-catch, 14-yard performance in a first round playoff exit to Dallas, just days after saying his team was going to beat the Cowboys on a Twitter post and later again on a UStream video. Jackson's antics were enough to incite Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin into a pre-game exchange of words during which the two had to be separated. Hamlin got a $12,500 fine after an illegal hit on Eagles tight end Brent Celek.
Now, the former LBP Jackrabbit is out to restructure his contract, good through 2011, with help from agent-to-the-stars Drew Rosenhaus who, coincidentally, also represents T.O.
If the Eagles aren't careful, and Jackson doesn't mature, an agent may not be all the two outspoken wideouts share.
Grant Marek covered the Cal football team from 2003-2005 and has written for Sports Illustrated, the San Francisco Examiner, and Daily Californian, among others. Email him at email@example.com