Jervonte Jackson is an Eagles rookie free agent defensive tackle, often identified as the half-brother of center Jamaal Jackson. But there is much more to Jervonte's story, including an imprisoned mother and an early life marked by notoriety he never sought.
Lots of guys who get signed as undrafted free agents have interesting stories. Jervonte Jackson's is on another level entirely.
Jackson, a defensive tackle from Florida Atlantic, is the half-brother of Eagles center Jamaal Jackson -- they have the same father, Jerry Jackson. But Jervonte's mother is Avonda Dowling, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in California for dealing drugs. When she was arrested, in 2002, Jervonte, then a sophomore in high school, was left in charge of the Miami-area household, which included his younger sister, Vonshari Hoardes.
"Paying bills, taking care of my sister, that was really difficult," Jackson said, after Thursday's rookie camp workout "Growing up, being a man real fast, was something I had to endure."
Jackson maintains a close relationship with his mother and hopes she can someday be freed by an appeal.
"She calls me about every other day," he said. "She's happy that I got my foot in the door. I always told her, if I get my foot in the door, just a sniff or a scratch, I'm going to take full advantage of it."
Jervonte maintains that his mom, who previously had served time for a weapons violation, had left criminal life behind when the testimony of drug gang members led to an investigation and the 2002 arrest. He says drugs were planted in her purse, and that the prosecution's portrayal of her as the leader of the violent "Vonda Gang," invovled in at least two murders, was highly embellished.
"Everybody that knew my mama knew she was a kindhearted person, always did everything for kids," Jackson said. "She never was a bad, evil person. She probably did bad things to survive, but she didn't kill anybody, she didn't beat up people, she didn't rob people -- the things that were happening in everyday Miami life ... A lot of people knew my mama wasn't a gang leader. A lot of people."
Read more about Jervonte's journey in Friday's Daily News.
Eagles senior vice president Mark Donovan has left the team to become the Kansas City Chiefs' vice president and cheif operating officer, where he will deirect the Chiefs' business operations.
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