NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As Adoree' Jackson walked on stage at DuPont Hadley Middle School on Tuesday afternoon, the room filled with cheers and excited murmurs. Approximately 75 DHMS students had been called to the auditorium, although none knew why they were there until the Titans cornerback took the microphone.
In fact, Jackson told the group that each student in the room had been nominated by their homeroom teacher to spend a portion of the afternoon hanging out with him as a reward for their excellent behavior and hard work during the first month of school. More importantly, each student was gifted a backpack full of school supplies donated by Jackson himself.
Before receiving their backpacks, the students had an opportunity to ask questions of Jackson, and the topics ranged from serious to lighthearted. Many were interested in Jackson's own middle school experience.
"My middle school was fun. That was the first time I started running track, was in middle school. I think that's what made me who I am, in a sense," Jackson told the group. "Everybody came from different elementary schools. We all came to the same middle school, and I feel like that really defined me as a person. Seeing who I am, being around my friends, just being able to be myself, I feel like that's what middle school was for me. Just being able to enjoy life, enjoy the moment, enjoy the people around me, because granted, when I left middle school, most of the people that I went to middle school with didn't go to the same high school as me. Then I moved from Illinois to California… some of the friends I had [in middle school], I still speak to today."
For Jackson, visiting DuPont Hadley and speaking with the students provided an opportunity for reflection on his own childhood.
"It means a lot," Jackson explained. "As a kid, if somebody came back to our school – high school, middle school, elementary – to give back, understand that they came from the same area or have been through the same things that I'm going through or went through, to be able to have that and understand that I can do something... going forward in life. That's what I wanted to do today."
DHMS eighth grader Doyel Cockrill was visibly excited about his new gear and the opportunity to meet an NFL star.
"He's a good man," Cochran said. "Nice and encouraging."
When asked what key points he learned after hearing from Jackson, Cockrill responded quickly.
"Never let no one stop you. Keep going, even through the rough times, and sooner or later, it'll pay off."
While the students were understandably thrilled, the school's administrative team was equally as appreciative of Jackson's donation to their students and the time he spent with them.
"It's huge any time you have someone of his stature come in to mingle with the kids and have conversations," explained DHMS principal Dr. Kevin Armstrong. "From a role model standpoint, I think it really stuck with them what he was saying, how he can remember being in their shoes and going through some of the things that he went through during the same time… It was just cool for them to make that connection, for them to leave with not only some encouraging words but also some school supplies."
Tuesday's event was another example of the team's investment in meeting the needs of Metro Nashville Public School students.
"[The Titans] have come out several times over the last couple years and really made a difference—be it large scale assemblies or small [groups] such as today, but it really makes a difference," Armstrong noted. "Our kids are talking about it for days and weeks afterward."
Titans CB Adoree' Jackson rewards students at DuPont Hadley Middle School with back packs at the start of the school year.