TAMPA, Fla. — Vincent Jackson had a growing family, a flush bank account from his sterling 12-year N.F.L. playing career and a thriving portfolio of business investments to keep him busy. Intelligent, active, philanthropic and eager to please, he was popular in the Tampa Bay area, where he and his family moved in 2012 when he joined the Buccaneers.
Jackson, it seemed, was an N.F.L. role model, until he was found dead and alone in a hotel room at age 38 in February, just days after his former team won the Super Bowl. Until then, Jackson had hidden his alcoholism and declining cognitive health from the public. Those conditions, though, had accelerated during the pandemic, which had derailed his business and pushed him into isolation.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson was found dead on Feb. 15 at the Homewood Suites in Brandon, Fla., a few miles east of Tampa, where hotel staff members said he had been staying since Jan. 11. A cause of death was not announced by the Hillsborough County medical examiner’s office.
Now the Jackson family has at least one clue to his demise: a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Doctors at the C.T.E. Center at Boston University have determined that Jackson had a “mild” form of the disease, which is associated with repeated hits to the head. C.T.E. has an array of symptoms, including memory loss, trouble managing daily chores and mood swings, which Jackson’s wife, Lindsey, said he exhibited with growing frequency in and after the 2016 N.F.L. season, his final one.
“His whole plan in the N.F.L. was to set himself up to not have these struggles,” Lindsey Jackson said in an interview at her Tampa home. He had done everything to set up a graceful retirement from football, she said, adding, “It’s not the ending he wanted.”
The C.T.E. diagnosis will provide only a partial coda for Lindsey Jackson and their four children. Though the family has come to grips with his absence in the 10 months since his death, many questions will never be answered. C.T.E. can only be diagnosed posthumously, so the Jacksons are left to piece together what was going on in his brain during the final years of his life.
Jackson was a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and had six seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving. Protective of his image, Lindsey Jackson said she had been reluctant to speak about his struggles. But she agreed to her first …….