DeSean Jackson looked only slightly older than the 260 or so seventh graders lined up to greet him outside E.T. Richardson School in Springfield, Delaware County, Wednesday morning.
Jackson, last year's record-setting rookie receiver, was the Eagle the NFL chose to participate in this year's "Take a Player to School" contest, won locally by Richardson student Jason Begley, who rode from his home to school in a stretch limo with Jackson, and then stood alongside him on the auditorium stage during an assembly.
Jackson delivered the league's message, emblazoned on a T-shirt he wore -- imploring the middle-schoolers to make time to "Play 60" minutes a day, getting regular exercise. "I grew up playing video games a lot -- I don't blame you," Jackson confessed. "Out of the whole 24 hours in a day, you've got to find one hour to just get up and walk around the block, play with your friends, be active."
The kids were deliriously happy to have an Eagle in their midst. But they showed their Philly heritage in the brief Q-and-A session, when the first question was: "Why did you drop the ball?" -- a reference to Jackson's memorable jettisoning of the football just short of the goalline in Dallas Week 2, negating what would have been his first pro touchdown.
Jackson, 22, took the query in stride. He said he'd been dreaming of scoring his first touchdown "since I was 6 years old."
As he neared the Texas Stadium end zone, he wasn't thinking about holding onto the ball, as he should have been, Jackson said.
"I couldn't have cared less about that football. I got overexcited, overanxious. I just wanted to get there and do my dance," he said.
In response to another question, Jackson demonstrated and explained his touchdown dance, which he said he calls "The Dirty Eagle," a reference to "The Dirty Bird" dance popularized by former Falcons star Jamal Anderson.
The Richardson students also learned that Jackson grew up a Steelers fan in Southern California, because both his parents were from Pittsburgh; that Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were his favorite players when he was their age; that he moved his mom out to the Philadelphia area last season to help him cope; and that the teammate he hangs out with most is cornerback Asante Samuel.
The appearance was a big deal for the Delco school, but it also was significant for Jackson, an Eagle on the cusp of stardom. After setting franchise rookie wideout records with 62 catches for 912 yards, Jackson is becoming an increasingly visible media presence, on the other side of the continent from where he grew up and starred in college, at Cal.
Read more about DeSean in Thursday's Daily News.