At the age of 11, Jerry Jacobs' world fell apart when he lost his beloved mother, Alice, to stomach cancer in 2009. With no father around and an uncertain future, he faced heartache and frustration and had to choose to either let his situation take him to the dark side or try to make his siblings proud, by becoming the person and athlete he felt called to be. Thanks to the love of his brothers and sisters, the Detroit Lions cornerback not only fulfills his own potential, but also uses football as a vehicle to reach other kids who could use a little inspiration.
M&F sat down with Jacobs and soon learned that sport can make a world of difference for those who need an edge.
With thoughtful wisdom, Jacobs says he had "an attitude problem" as a kid, but football was the sport that gave him the passion and focus to improve both as an athlete and as a person. "Growing up, I had a frustration or two," he says. To keep him off the streets, his sister Kim signed him up to play soccer at the age of six on her mother's orders. After her death, this proved to be a way for him to escape from reality. "It took away a lot of my frustrations, and I've endured it on the field more than I would take out on a person. So it helped a lot,” he shares. Though he played lacrosse, track and field, and basketball in high school; "Football got the upper hand for me," says the player. "And it really made me want to stay in the gym."
Jerry Jacobs keeps game ready through his love of the gym
"Man, I love the gym," says Jacobs. “I keep my body healthy and safe. Because I play in the NFL, I like to work out to keep my body fit in this game. I keep it simple, like bank, curls, you know? Such things. Squats, the basics. But in the off-season I try to do everything, like doing more flexibility training and incorporating exercises.”
As in all touching underdog stories, Jacobs is able to learn from defeats and mistakes in football and come out stronger. While playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, he decided not to play the last four games and instead focused on getting drafted to the NFL in 2021. However, he felt honored when this led to him becoming a free agent. Jacobs has matured in his assessment of the decisions he's made at the Razorbacks. "I couldn't do any coaching back then," he admits. "I just thought I was someone I wasn't when I started school, you know? When I got there I was fighting for the starting position and I ended up winning and I think it crossed my mind that I thought I was just the man.”
Jacobs says he's kind of glad he dropped a point or two from not being drafted because it made him all the more aware that he needed to work on his attitude and his performance on the field . "I learn from my mistakes and look back on them and it shows that I'm a better person and a better man now," he says. With his dreams falling out of reach, Jacob explains that he's had a "good time" and focused on what he needs to do to get into the NFL. w, at 25, Jacobs says he works out every day like he's just gone undiscovered again. Luckily, his desire to train hard and work on his mindset led to an opportunity to train with the Detroit Lions. He has been there since 2021.
Jerry Jacobs understands that great mentors are winners
“You meet a lot of nice people in football. You make a lot of friends,” said Jacobs, who credits Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White as someone who has had a hugely positive impact on his life. "When I was in high school, he was one of the guys I looked up to. At the time, he was attending college at LSU. I liked the way he played and how he behaved off the pitch. So I've been watching him since I was in high school, and man, over the past year, it's been a blessing to even get his jersey and talk to him, so it's been awesome."
Speaking of jerseys, Jacobs was able to acknowledge his experience with the Tre'Davious White forward when he returned to his old job at Hutchinson Community College and retired his own jersey in March. That same month, Jacobs hosted the 1st Annual Jerry Jacobs Football Camp, where he reveled in the opportunity to share both his elite football know-how and all-important positive message with the next generation of potential NFL players.
The 1st Annual Jerry Jacobs Football Camp @SouthCobb_FB was a huge success. @_luhjerry shared his story and worked with campers all day. @Lions have a baller of their own who knows his roots. The future is bright… #ACT #WakeUpAndEat pic.twitter.com/RurP6Wr3Ci
— SC_HS Football (@SouthCobb_FB) March 28, 2023
Another initiative close to Jacobs' heart is his Seatbelt Gang merchandise brand. He donates a portion of each sale to provide resources and better outcomes for young people in Detroit. "I was in the same position once," says Jacobs. “I didn't have a lot of older people who made it into the league and came back to my area and talked to me.” For Jacob's, investing time and money in young people through sport is a priceless reward. “Man, sport helps with a lot of things and it helps with things in life that are outside of football. When you're stressed and angry, exercise takes your mind off other things, you know?” Always a top athlete, Jacobs still hungered for his own rewards. "I still have a lot to do," he says. "I want to go from the undrafted jacket to the gold jacket, so I'm trying to get this gold jacket! I've been through a lot of adversity throughout my life and when I look back you know I'm at the highest level and there's nothing better than playing in the NFL."