Mom, I know you still believe in me

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To: Hue Jackson's mother, Betty Lee Jackson

From: Hue Jackson (written with The Unsealed)

Charity: The Hue Jackson Foundation

Sponsor: D&S Vending, Inc

Dear Mom,

I know if you were here right now you would pop me upside the head and say, “Boy, chin up, head up and keep going.”

But Mom, it hasn’t been easy.

Hue Jackson lived on the top floor of a church on 52nd and Hoover before his family moved to 5th avenue and 60th street. Both homes were in Los Angeles.

You are the one who taught me about wins and losses in life, especially early on. We lived in gang neighborhoods in Los Angeles: first 52nd and Hoover and  then we moved to 5th Avenue and 60th Street. We lacked money. We were a lower-class family in a tough environment. I grew up seeing so many losses, including people getting shot, killed, beaten up and drugged out. At 16 I watched my older brother go to prison. Two years later my older sister’s lungs collapsed and she died.

You wanted better for me. That is why you put me in sports, which became my safe haven. Football was where I found my wins. I was a quarterback at Dorsey High School and in 1982, my senior year, we won a city championship.

During high school I watched you wake up at 4:30 am. You would take me to school, go to work as a school cook, pick me up, drop me off at football practice, cook dinner for our family, go to your second job and then come home around 10:00 pm.

You were trying to prevent the losses around me from influencing my path in life. It was your work ethic that laid the foundation not only for my city championship in high school but for my entire career.

You always told me, I was going to be where I want to be.

You would always say, “My baby is going to make it.”

Hue Jackson with his mother Betty Lee Jackson

As you know Mom, I wanted to be 1 of 32 NFL head coaches. In my career I have gotten the opportunity to be an NFL head coach not once, but twice. As a black coach getting those opportunities wasn’t easy, but I found a way.

The first time around I went 8-8 with the Oakland Raiders. Owner and general manager, Al Davis, believed in me but he died during that season. The new regime wanted to go in a different direction the following year.

After I lost my first head coaching job I had to start over. I went and coached on defense in Cincinnati as what was essentially a quality control coach and worked my way up to offensive coordinator. Mom, I tried to be the best I could be like you taught me. Despite suffering a heart attack in 2014, I ended up being Pro Football Writers of America’s 2015 NFL Co-Assistant Coach of the Year. At that point, my chance to be 1 of 32 resurfaced. The Cleveland Browns hired me as their head coach. This was my opportunity to show that the Raiders should have kept me.

I know if you were here right now you would pop me upside the head and say, “Boy, chin up, head up and keep going.”

By this time, in 2016, you suffered from dementia. You not only didn’t know that I was the head coach of the Browns but you no longer even recognized me. That was tough, but I was still trying to make you smile and prove you right.

Hue Jackson was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2016 to midway through the 2018 season.

The Browns were appealing because I already knew the division. At the time I accepted the job they had a real nucleus of good players and just needed some tweaks. Plus, I thought I could build an unbelievable legacy there because the franchise had struggled for so long.

However, instead of winning we lost, a lot.  In 2 ½ seasons we went 3-36-1. People are not built to lose. It leads to too many negative outcomes. Some athletes and coaches turn to alcohol, drugs or other unhealthy habits because they just need that win for a moment. To be a good leader, I had to abstain from outlets that weren’t productive.

To stand before a football team and keep them motivated to play, I had to stay motivated myself. Mom, people won’t see it this way because I lost but my time with the Browns was some of my best coaching. I took a group of men and kept them playing and competing at a high level. That takes a lot of skill and determination.

While there is a record that for some defines a lot of my wins and losses, my greatest loss during my time in Cleveland was you. You passed away during training camp in 2018, just two weeks after we lost your son and my older brother, John Jackson Jr.  Even after you died, I could and can still hear some of the conversations we had when I was younger. Those conversations helped me endure the challenges I faced as a coach as well as the loss of my dream job, as I was fired during the 2018 season.

I realized that there is a human side to wins and losses. Whether it be the personal defeats or the ones on the football field, what is important is how you navigate coming out of all of them.

It’s easy to become isolated, as people seem to have so easily forgotten all my hard work, progress and accomplishments as an offensive coach.

You would be most proud to know that I haven’t given up. My memory of you won’t let me. If you were here you would tell me tomorrow might bring another opportunity and I need to be ready when it comes.  You would tell me to stay focused on my goal, not to let people deter me and not to worry about what people say. You taught me how to really believe in myself and to push forward toward whatever it is I want to accomplish.

Hue Jackson’s mother Betty Lee Jackson and father John Jackson.

All the losses didn’t break me. Instead, I am making sure I don’t let the past create my future. And that’s because of you.

I know without question that you still believe I am going to be a successful NFL head coach.

I know you are in heaven saying, “My son is going to coach and win in the Super Bowl.”

Mom, I don’t know how my story will end but I know it’s not over yet. Many around me see my record and my personal tragedies as a lot of losing. However, you taught me that my will to continue to fight through all types of challenges and hardships means in life, I am winning.

I miss you and I love you always,

Your son, Coach Jackson

 

Written with Lauren Brill

About the author:

I am the former head coach of the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders. Throughout my career I have coached various positions at both the collegiate and professional levels.

About the sponsor and the charity:

D&S Vending, a one-stop shop for all your vending machine needs, is empowering my voice. They will donate $100 to The Hue Jackson Foundation in honor of the first 100 shares of my letter. The Hue Jackson Foundation is committed to empowering children, teens, and adults through awareness, education and prevention of Human Trafficking while assisting survivors and their families.

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I have learned over my Fifty-Eight years of life, and more specifically over the last 10 that FDR's words about fearing only fear itself ring true; to me, they do, anyway. And, at the same time, how the words of the 23rd Psalm comfort me and my abundant faith in G-d allows me to fear only fear, knowing full well that He is always with me. Growing up in a Non-Orthodox, yet Observant Jewish family nicely brings both together and not only makes me feel more protected but commands me to believe so. You see, I have lived a different kind of life, as we all have to some degree, but mine changes daily. Not that I am ANY BETTER than anyone else, in fact, probably less so... I stray from my stories often. I shouldn't, but since my Stroke in 2012, I have somehow developed some sort of ADD, so please bear with me, the end will justify the means and I will *try* to stick with my story; for you, my readers. I moved my family of the ex-wife and four children Cross-Country in 2002 to be closer to my dad who was turning 75 that year, and while I could not afford both financially as well as mentally to move back to Southern California (where he and my mother lived), I chose the Midbar (Hebrew for Desert) of Arizona. Within just a few short weeks of moving here, I woke up one day with some of the most severe abdominal pain I had ever experienced. I found a local doctor and made an appointment to see him that day. I arrived at the appointment and was ushered into an examination room by their PA (Physician's Assistant), who is supposed to be the same as a Doctor, but not really (?). I was examined and Prescriptions for a Pain Medication and an Antibiotic. They continued to treat me in a like manner for almost six months when I ended up in an Emergency Room, where a CT Scan was performed and Colonoscopy was scheduled. I was then diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized obstruction and abscess in my colon that would require surgical intervention. Surgery was scheduled for two days later, on a Friday in Mid-March 2003. I arrived at the hospital at the designated time, 5:45 am; was admitted to the hospital; told them about ALL my allergies (including a BIG ONE, an allergy to a particular anesthetic agent), and taken to a room where I was put into one of those awful gowns and told that they'd be "right back" to take me to surgery. They promptly came back at 10:30 in the morning and took me to yet another room... to wait some more. At 11:45 the Anesthesiologist came in to talk with me. He informed me that he was going to use Propofol for my induction and that he was planning on using the EXACT ANESTHESIA TO WHICH I AM ALLERGIC to maintain me through surgery! "NOT ON ME, YOU'RE NOT", I exclaimed! "I'M ALLERGIC!!!" On my wrist sat a red band that clearly said ALLERGIES: CEVOFLURAINE. I then proceeded to give him a list of anesthetic agents that I knew to be safe. He tapped me on the knee and said: Okay, Smart guy, put yourself to sleep and quickly left the room. I awoke from the anesthesia on the following Wednesday evening. In addition to the NINE small incisions from various attempts to perform the procedure of removing 18" of my diseased colon through a scope, I also had one 6" cut in my belly that began around my navel and continued to just above my groin. I also began experiencing severe shortness of breath. The staples were ripped out of my skin by the Butcher Surgeon two weeks later, but my breathing difficulties continued. After being examined by one doctor after another, I finally decided to be examined by The Mayo Clinic. Over a ten-day to 2 week period, I was examined by multiple physicians, underwent numerous tests and procedures and was finally ready for my Report Appointment. I would learn the results of all of the tests and procedures and hopefully have a clear diagnosis and prognosis. The verdict had come in. Diagnosis: Terminal COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Causation: Bacterial Pneumonia due to Malignant Hyperthermia caused by induction of Detrimental Anesthesia Prognosis: 5% chance of Five-Year Survival I then took my report to a highly regarded Pulmonologist for Follow-Up Care, but not before enrolling in Rabbinical School in New York City. I had, (since age ten) always wanted to be a Rabbi. It was now or never. On the advice of the Pulmonologist, I began taking Prednisone (a Steroid) that would open up my Bronchioles and make it easier to breathe. The normal dosage for a man who is 5'9" and weighs 150 pounds (before I got sick, I weighed 174 pounds, all muscle, by the way) is <100mg per day. My STARTING dose was 100mg THREE TIMES a DAY. the dosage was increased every few months for the following THREE YEARS, when, on Sunday, September 9, 2007, at the weight of 340 Pounds (the Steroids had been increased to 250mg Four Times a day), I collapsed and at Mayo Hospital, was intubated where my organs began failing. Two nights later, on the First Night of Rosh haShana, the Jewish New Year, and while being mechanically ventilated, I went into Full Blown Total System Failure, and suffered a Cardiac Arrest for 14 minutes, followed by a Coma of several weeks duration. During my Coma, I felt as if I was in a box. The box had four dirt walls and smelled like the Morning Dew. In the upper right corner of the box sat a red square with a white X inside of it. "If only I could click on that X, I might stop this program", I thought to myself, but I could not move; I could not stand; could not reach, and could not scream for help. I lay in this place crying out in fear for what seemed like days and weeks and months. Suddenly, my cries were replaced by Psalms. I was reciting Psalms, some of which I had never even read before! And the Psalms turned into Prayers; The Kol Nidre, chanted at the beginning of our Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; every other prayer recited on this Holy of all Holy Days; the Prayers for the Sukkot Holidays that follow the next week and the Readings for every single Torah Portion of the year. I somehow knew them all. By heart. Without hesitation of memory and obviously without any text to look at. I kept reading and chanting day and night; night and day and resting in between. Really resting. Sleeping... until one day, I opened up my eyes to see my beautiful son Zac sitting at my side on my bed. Covering the holes in my throat and on the side of my neck, I managed to spit out "C'était le rêve de dix minutes le plus étrange que j'aie jamais eu"! I told my son that was the weirdest ten-minute dream that I have ever had in FRENCH, my first language and native tongue. He then told me that it had been over two months, and I was in a Hospice Facility. The night before, I had begun to breathe on my own a minute or so after being disconnected from the machines that had sustained my organs since September. A few days later I was wheeled to an ambulance outside to be transported to the truly amazing HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Scottsdale. The sun kissed my face as I felt like I was pulled up into a body of love. It spoke. In Hebrew: Don't worry, it said. "You and I are going to be okay". I spent the next six weeks learning to do things like eating and holding a pencil; how to shower and dress. I learned how to return to life. Six weeks after leaving HealthSouth, my dad died. In July 2018, my mom joined him. I have had many trials and tribulations over these last twelve years. A Stroke in 2012 took my ability to project my voice loudly; I've been hospitalized many times and know how very precious time is. I do not live for today, rather, I live for tomorrow. I do everything I can do today to help others, and pray that I am again awakened tomorrow to do more good. And if so, great! And if not; if G-d decides to take me tonight, I will hang out with my parents and loved ones forever. I win either way. President Roosevelt was right to believe in only fearing fear. Psalm 23 is even more so, as Faith follows all of us.

Funny my mom passed in 1991 as a 13 year old it was hard but she was much more then beauty. She was a fighter from the beginning and I will never be able to explain her impact. It shows you came from a strong famiy and I'm glad you had both a mom and dad because a lot of people don't. I pray your truth can make a difference

This is trying to scare us with more misinformation then actual information but thank you for giving us your reality. I like it a lot.and people just wash your hand like you should be doing anyway 😂

Great discussion, as well as some interesting numbers which I'm not sure are meant to calm us, or install even more fear. I have many of your same concerns. Just yesterday I scheduled a work trip to Miami for late next week, but am unsure if it will happen or not. And while i say or act like i'm not concerned, sub-consciously, i am quite sure it is weighing on my mind each time i cough, or sneeze, or feel "a little warm", or if someone around me does. One of the biggest fears i have is that with all of the media coverage and the additional testing becoming available, the numbers are sure to skyrocket, and this is going to really set some people off. Our country is going to go absolutely bonkers . We are all guilty of taking limited amounts of information and either talking about it like an expert, or completely overreacting. Here's hoping that the number stat to level out, and then drop. Lets hope that the American people can follow simple suggestions. Lets hope that countries from around the world can work together to come up with a viable plan to slow this train down. And last but not least, lets hope our politicians can come together to provide our country guidance as we all try to get through this. Lets hope they can forget about the presidential race for just a minute to remember what their job really is; to serve the American people. And now is their time to really step up and lead by example.

Lauren, like you I have to balance my fear and confusion. I work directly with the public and I have an immune system that is partially suppressed as a by product of treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I fear for my Father the most as his body is much weaker than even mine. I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art on Sunday just to learn three people were positively diagnosed on Monday in Cuyahoga county. You aren't alone in that fear. I think that we must turn to hope to keep us in this trying time. We have to...

Terry, As a man who has lived and breathed baseball, your letter was an absolute joy for me to read. What young boy wouldn't want to be in the clubhouse with his Dad? During your time as manager I've been to quite a few games in Cleveland. None though were as special as July 12th 2014. That was the day I celebrated my 30th birthday. Though the day centered around my birthday it saw me doing something for someone else. It was the day I took my Father to the very first professional sports game in his 59 years of life at the time. It was so touching the certificate that he got from the wonderful folks at Guest Services. And although the home team lost to the White Sox that day, it will always remain one of the best days in my heart. Letters like yours only serve to renew my love for the game of baseball. Thanks for sharing it with the little boy still inside of me wanting to throw that 0-2 curveball to the best hitter in the league.

[…] enough, in the email was your letter to your late father, former NBA basketball star Anthony Mason, talking about your struggles after his death. You wrote […]

Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.

Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine

You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)

[…] Here is why you need to stop being nice and start being loud […]

Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?

So nice Roger <3

Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain

Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.