DeSean Jackson had other options, but at this stage in his pro career, the chance to reunite with a coach he connected well with and come home to Los Angeles was too good of an opportunity to pass up for the new Rams wide receiver.
"I was just talking to my cousin, basically saying, like, this is the perfect time for me to come back to L.A.," Jackson said during his introductory video conference Friday morning. "Because if it would have been when I was younger or even like, five, six years ago, I just was at a different point in my life where it probably wouldn't have been the best thing. But now where I'm at, 34 years old, going on my 14th season, just where I'm at as a family man. I'm very focused on my kids, my family, it's just, I'm not at that young stage anymore where I'm worried about hanging out and going to clubs or partying. I'm just at a different space in my life. So, right now is the perfect fit and it's the perfect time. It couldn't have been any other time."
Like Jackson, the Los Angeles area has also changed since his youth and high school playing days.
Born in 1986, Jackson was eight-years-old when the Rams left Los Angeles for St. Louis. By the time an NFL team returned to L.A. (2016), he was entering his ninth season as a pro.
Five years later, the area where he started playing football as a child – Darby Park in Inglewood – borders where SoFi Stadium now sits.
"I used to play at Darby Park as a little kid," Jackson said. "So being there in the stadium, man, and just kind of walking on the grass and just really feeling that atmosphere, it was something intriguing about that just because, that's like a rich blood. It's just like, I've been there when I was a kid, on these fields competing at a young age and that it turned out for me to be this professional athlete that's been making it in the NFL for a long time and doing some great things."
As Jackson alluded to, it was there – and later Long Beach Polytechnic High School – that the roots for a blossoming pro career were planted, a career that would establish him as one of the most explosive wide receivers in the NFL and an attractive free agent for the Rams and other teams this spring.
Through his 13 NFL seasons, Jackson has amassed 10,656 career receiving yards and posted a career average of 17.4 yards per reception, good for fourth-most and most respectively among active wide receivers. He recorded 2,702 of those yards across three seasons (2014-16) working with current Rams head coach Sean McVay in Washington when McVay was Washington's offensive coordinator.
"Sean McVay, we have a very special relationship," Jackson said. "Sean McVay acquired me back in Washington in 2014. I can remember when the Eagles released me in 2013 and just to have that relationship with a guy that's kind of close to me in age, then Jay Gruden actually was our head coach at that time. I could just remember where I was at in my career after coming off of one of the greatest seasons I had in 2013 and being released, it was almost like a stab in my back, but to have Sean McVay, Jay Gruden, like kind of just come to me like, 'Man, we're not worried about any of that stuff people were saying, we believe in you as a player, as a young human being.' It was like the opportunity they were able to give me, for me it sits somewhere special in my heart and my life."
Those three years with McVay also resonate with Jackson because of how they expressed that with their actions. While Jackson tends to be pigeon-holed into the "deep threat" receiver role, he was used in a variety of ways by McVay in Washington.
"I was to able to come in and have a role where it was unlike any other (that I'd had)," Jackson said. "We had (wide receiver) Pierre Garçon, we had other pieces, (tight end) Jordan Reed, but it was like a niche for figuring out, he's our deep threat, but he's not just our deep threat. He's our underneath guy, he's our screen guy, he can run quick-hitches, he could scare people so fiercefully deep."
Jackson wouldn't divulge any details about his role or how McVay plans to use him during their second stint together, whether that be on offense or potentially as a punt returner on special teams. He was also cautious about getting too far ahead with talk of potentially closing out his career at home with a Super Bowl victory at SoFi Stadium – he said he still feels like he can play another "three to five years."
For now, he's just excited to be back home and eager to get to work, invoking current Lakers forward LeBron James as a source of inspiration.
"I look at it almost like when LeBron went back to Cleveland and won the championship for Cleveland, Ohio, so that's what I'm here for," Jackson said. "That's all I'm really worried about."