At age 11, Jerry Jacobs world fell apart when he lost his beloved mother, Alice, to stomach cancer in 2009. With no father around, and an uncertain future, he was faced with grief and frustration, and the choice to either let his situation take him to the dark side, or try to make his siblings proud by becoming the human being and athlete that he felt destined to be. With great thanks to the love of his brother and sisters, the Detroit Lions cornerback is not only reaching his own potential, but is also using football as a means of reaching other children that could use a little inspiration.

M&F sat down with Jacobs, and soon learned that sport can make a massive difference for those that need a leg up.

With reflective wisdom, Jacobs says that he had “an attitude problem” growing up, but football was the sport that gave him the passion and focus to improve both as an athlete and as a human being. “Growing up, I had one or two frustrations,” he says. At six years of age, his sister Kim signed him up to play football under Mom’s instruction to keep him off the streets, and it proved to be a way for him to escape reality in the aftermath of her death. “It took a lot of the frustrations away, and I took it out on the field more than I would take it out on a person. So, it helped a lot,” he shares. Despite playing lacrosse, track, and basketball in high school; “Football was the one that took over for me,” says the player. “And it made me really stay in the gym.”

Detroit Lions Jerry Jacobs in uniform looking at a football
Jerry Jacobs/NFL

Jerry Jacobs Stays Game Ready Through His Love of the Gym

“Man, I love the gym,” says Jacobs. “Keeping my body healthy and safe. Since I’ve been playing in the NFL, I like to lift in order to keep my body going in this game. I keep it basic like bench, curls, you know? Stuff like that. Squats, the basic stuff. But in the offseason I try to get through everything, like more agility-based training and incorporating drills.”

Like with in all touching underdog stories, Jacobs is able to learn from football losses and mistakes, and come back stronger. While playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, he chose not to play the last four games, instead focusing on being drafted to the NFL in 2021, but he was humbled when this resulted in him becoming a free agent. Of the decisions that he made while with the Razorbacks, Jacobs is mature in his assessment. “I couldn’t take coaching at the time,” he admits. “I just thought I was someone who I wasn’t when I got to that school, you know? When I got there, I competed for the starting position, and I ended up winning, and I think it got to my head that I thought I was just ‘the man.’”

Jacobs says that he’s glad in some ways that he was taken down a peg or two by becoming undrafted, because it only made him realize all the more that he needed to work on his attitude, and his performance on the field. “I learn from my mistakes and I look back on them, and it shows that I am a better person and a better man now,” he says. Faced with his dreams moving out of reach, Jacob’s explains that he gave himself a “good talking to”, and focused on what he needed to do, in order to reach the NFL. These days, aged 25, Jacobs says that he trains every day as though he just got undrafted again. Fortunately, however, his desire to go hard with his training, and work on his mindset led to an opportunity to train with the Detroit Lions. He’s been there since 2021.

Jerry Jacobs Understands that Great Mentors Make Winners

“In football, you meet a lot of nice people. You make a lot of friendships,” says Jacobs, who names Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White as someone who has been an extremely positive influence on his life. “When I was in high school, he was one of the guys that I looked up to. He was in college at that time, in LSU. I liked his game play, and how he carried himself outside the field. So, I’ve been watching him since I was in high school and man, this past year it was a blessing to even get his jersey and talk to him, so it was amazing.”

Speaking of jersey’s, Jacobs was able to pay his experience with Tre’Davious White forward, when he returned to his old stomping ground at Hutchinson Community College in March, and retired his own jersey. That same month, Jacobs ran the 1st Annual Jerry Jacobs Football Camp, where he relished the opportunity to share both his elite footballing expertise, and that all-important message of positivity with the next generation of potential NFL players.

Another initiative that Jacobs is passionate about is his “Seatbelt Gang”  brand of merchandise. He donates a portion of each sale to help provide resources and better outcomes for young people in Detroit. “I was in the same shoes at one point in time,” says Jacobs. “I didn’t have a lot of older guys, who made it to the league, come back and talk to me in my area.” Investing time and money in young people through sport is something that Jacob’s feels brings them priceless rewards. “Man, sports helps out with a lot of things and it helps out with things in life that are outside of football. When you are stressed, and when you are angry, sports gets your mind off stuff, you know?” Ever the elite-athlete, Jacobs is still hungry for his own rewards. “I’ve still got more work to do,” he says. “I want to go from undrafted to gold jacket, so I’m trying to get that gold jacket! I’ve been through a lot of adversity throughout my life and looking back on that, man, you know I’m at the highest stage and it don’t get no better than playing in the NFL.”