OLDSMAR — When Vincent Jackson appeared in the Oldsmar City Council Chambers building in August 2019, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star literally stood out in the crowd.

The 6-foot, 5-inch wide receiver, who played 12 seasons in the NFL, including five with the Bucs, struck an imposing figure, impeccably dressed and bowing to reach the microphone as a member of a group presenting a proposal for a development as part of the Oldsmar Town Center project.

The three-time Pro Bowler had already developed friendships with some council members, and while Jackson’s group wasn’t selected, he definitely made a lasting impression during his presentation.

So when the news broke Feb. 15 that the 38-year-old had been found dead in a Brandon hotel room, reactions from Oldsmar officials ranged from shock to sadness.

“Very sad news regarding Vincent Jackson, former Buc’s player and friend to the city of Oldsmar,” Mayor Eric Seidel wrote on Facebook hours later. “Prayers for his family and friends. RIP Vincent.”

During the council meeting the next night, council member Linda Norris, a lifelong Buccaneers season ticket holder, reiterated Jackson was “a friend to Oldsmar,” adding, “I did know him, and I just pray for his wife and four kids. VJ, always know that Oldsmar loves you.”

Seidel echoed the sentiments, noting Jackson was “certainly a friend to the city who wanted to do more in the city and he’s certainly a man who had a lot of impact in the Tampa Bay region. May he rest in peace.”

Jackson, a Colorado native who began his career with the San Diego Chargers in 2005 and retired with the Bucs in 2016, would go on to lead a successful post-football career as a businessman and philanthropist, forming a real estate investment firm, CTV Capital, as well as a foundation, Jackson in Action 83, that assisted veterans and their families, among other charitable endeavors.

It was through a business venture that former Oldsmar Vice Mayor Gabby McGee met the man known as VJ, and she explained the two quickly developed a friendship.

“I was remodeling a house in St. Pete and he was an investor in it. That’s how we met,” McGee, who moved to Spain in 2019, said via text. “VJ and I were only acquaintances on social media … so I sent him a note introducing myself and told him that I had a project I was looking for an investor in to see if he was interested.”

McGee said after Jackson checked into her plans, “he said it seemed like I had everything in order,” and he met with McGee “the next day to give me the check. And from there we just became great friends.”

Like many others who have spoken out in the wake of his passing, McGee praised Jackson’s larger-than-life presence and his desire to give back to, and make a difference in, his community

“From the moment I first met him he had this huge presence and easiness about him. He was so approachable,” she said. “He was ambitious, always talking about new projects he was working on … and he believed that Oldsmar was ripe for growth and wanted to be a part of it. When you think about people who contribute so much to well-being of the community, that was VJ, and his loss is a loss for all of Tampa Bay.”

Noting she had recently exchanged messages with Jackson around his birthday in January, McGee said “it makes me wish I would have asked more about how his life was going, because you’ll never get that chance again.”

An example of Jackson’s competitive nature and his love for the community could be found after the Oldsmar council rejected his company’s development proposal 18 moths ago.

Standing in the lobby of the Council Chambers building, the former football star turned businessman expressed that he was disappointed but determined to bounce back from the defeat.

“We believe in our plans, and we’re not going anywhere,” Jackson told Suncoast News at the time.

“We want to be a part of this city.”

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the cause of death, but Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a recent interview that Jackson may have suffered from alcoholism and or other health issues related to concussions.