TAMPA — If Vincent Jackson ever decides to pursue an acting career after pro football, he’ll look back at Friday’s matinee performance as the turning point.
The 31-year-old wide receiver of the Buccaneers used his versatile voice to act out five different parts, including a girl in pigtails, as he and his wife Lindsey entranced almost 80 children of military families by reading from their new book.
Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl pick who signed as a free agent in 2012, has topped the 1,000-yard mark in both of his seasons with the Bucs after playing seven years for the Chargers. He is a self-described “military brat’’ who is intent on sharing his experiences as a child being raised by parents in the armed forces.
“We couldn’t be prouder of getting this started — troops are the ones laying it on the line, but what’s going on at home?’’ Jackson said after he and his wife of three years read to a well-behaved audience of youngsters ages 6-12 from “Danny Dogtags: Dealing With Deployment.’’
Lindsey, a former elementary school teacher, is 15 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child. Their 10-month-old son, Carter, wriggled in his stroller during the reading portion of the morning before the visiting children headed to the overcast field at One Buc Place for fun and games.
“We’ve been very excited about today,’’ Lindsey said. “This book is a labor of love and it was a year-and-a-half in the making. It was our idea. We sat down together and wrote it, and the Bucs have been instrumental in funding for the book.’’
TSgt. Chris Breen brought his 10-year-old son Mitchell to Friday’s event at team headquarters.
“This is wonderful,’’ Breen said. “It’s a great way to pay back the military and their families. It’s obvious that Vincent Jackson is very committed to this cause.’’
Through his Jackson in Action 83 program, the veteran receiver provides support to military families, focusing on the issues children must cope with on a daily basis.
“My dad was in the Army for 22 years and I spent a lot of time on bases around the world,’’ said Jackson, who plans on at least two more books to chronicle the adventures of his fictional character. “This book is about understanding what deployment is all about. It’s OK to be sad. I always wanted to hold my dad’s dog tags. That’s something these kids can feel and touch.’’
The 27-page children’s book is available at local major book retailers and online at the Buccaneers team store. Proceeds will support Jackson’s foundation.
“It was cool, giving us advice on how you can help your family get through these things,’’ said 10-year-old Tahj Hayden of Tampa, whose father is stationed in Kuwait for four months. “After the first month, it gets easier.’’
The book follows “Danny Dogtags’’ as he tries to cope with the news that his father is set to begin a one-year deployment to a foreign land. A few days later, the main character heads to Raymond James Stadium for a Bucs game, where he was invited to call the coin toss.
“A lot of this book was taken from my own experiences,’’ Jackson said. “We want to provide resources for spouses and kids and suppport the family structure. Lindsey and I spent three or four months getting the narrative just right.’’