Putting The Professional In Professionalism: A Wake-up Call for DeSean Jackson

Jonathan SchneiderContributor ISeptember 21, 2008

Lets just say you work at a law firm. You’re going to meet a potential client who is paying you a large sum of money. Are you going to show up to this meeting with your shirt half tucked in and a mustard stain on your tie? That would be something described as unprofessional, which is also the word used to describe too many professional athletes today.

As I watched this Monday night football thriller between the Cowboys and the Eagles last week, I noticed that there was tenacity between the two teams; perhaps much more than the average two teams or even two other rivalry teams for that matter. The intensity was there for sure on both sides of the field, which is not a bad thing, however there was one play that bothered me.

At about halfway through the second quarter, promising rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson caught a beautiful pass from quarterback Donovan Mcnabb for 61 yards. It looked like young Jackson was going to coast in for his first career NFL touchdown and it was going to be on Monday night.

Jackson however decided to do something maybe not all that surprising. He celebrated. The problem was that he celebrated too soon. Jackson threw the ball up before crossing the plane for a touchdown and if not for luck, almost lost a crucial score for his team. We are supposed to call this guy a professional football player?

Lets go back to my law firm analogy. Lets say the meeting with your client is going well and you think you’re going to land this guy. Just towards the end of the meeting before he commits, do you start celebrating as if you’ve got him? The answer is no. Celebrating or congratulating yourself before you have won can maybe—just maybe—cause you to lose him all together. Kind of like what happened to Mr. Jackson.

The worst part about Jackson’s miscue is that it is not the first time it’s happened.  When Jackson was a senior in high school, he played in the U.S. Army All-American bowl and tried a swan dive into the end zone that fell short. In this situation, the ball was lost and the team was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. You would think he would learn from his mistakes.

Young players like Jackson must have got their inspiration for their irresponsible, unprofessional acts on the field from somewhere. A player opposite Jackson Monday night named Terrell Owens and other veterans like him may serve as that inspiration.

Owens, who is indeed known for his on and off the field stunts, is maybe a bit different and quite possibly not as bad as Jackson and what he has done now twice.

Perhaps Owens’ most notable “unprofessional” act dates back to his time with the San Francisco 49ers where on September 24, 2000 he ran into the star in the middle of the Dallas Cowboys' field and threw the football down on the ground..twice. Actions like this, although extremely immature and unprofessional, did not take points off the board.

Owens, Chad Johnson, and Randy Moss just to name a few are players who partake in these unprofessional acts during what is supposed to be their professional jobs and it is unacceptable. Football, like any other job, is a job and of course if it is your job you should enjoy doing it; however enjoyment and embellishment are two different things.

Maybe it’s just the limelight that these players love. Players like the ones listed above may just need to be unprofessional in order to succeed. No one is questioning the skill level of these players because, well, you cant. These are some of the best wide receivers of our generation and maybe in the history of the NFL. Taking away all the silly immature celebrations and other actions would not make them any less of a player. Maybe they just don’t realize it.

Back to the law firm analogy: Your client is deciding between two potential suitors. One is a person with tremendous talent in his field and most certainly can get the job done however is outlandish, rude, and perhaps inappropriate at times. The other, almost as good as the prior but much more reserved in his actions and is strictly business first. Who is the client going to hire?

Compare this to football. A team is looking at two receivers in which one they want to sign. For argument purposes the receivers are Chad Johnson (lets say he’s healthy) and Larry Fitzgerald. Who will the team sign? We all know that both these players are excellent wide receivers however one is professional and one is not.

The fact of the matter is that football is a job, just like being a lawyer or a CEO of a company. These guys are getting paid to play football, not celebrate, and especially in a way that can harm the outcome of your team’s performance (like Jackson). Just like a lawyer is hired by his client to win his case, a football player is signed to help the team win their games. The lawyer is not hired to go out after and advertise how well he did in the courthouse just as the football player is not signed to go into the end zone and flap his arms like a bird.