ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Early in last Thursday's preseason opener, Vincent Jackson caught a 48-yard pass in stride and took a few more steps before the just-burned cornerback was able to trip him up.
Jackson rose quickly and in understated celebration stalked forward in that slow way only a superior athlete (or a dancer) can make look smooth.
So familiar as an on-field scene, so fitting as a metaphor.
Forward is how Jackson wants to go.
In interviews over the past week, it is apparent that Jackson allows no regret, is certain he will continue to be everything he was while leading the NFL in receiving average from 2008-09 and that he believes his future is limitless, even if it isn't entirely in his hands.
Since the moment he reported to camp, having signed his one-year franchise tender that guaranteed him $11.4 million, it has been clear Jackson has made an effort to arrive at a peaceful juncture.
In fact, a firm believer in life experiences adding up to the sum of a man, Jackson counts the experience of his 2010 contract dispute and its accompanying ugliness as a sort of pathway to enlightenment.
"It brought me to just understanding the brutal business (that) this game can be," he said this week. "Does it have to be? No, it doesn't have to be. But at times it is. There is no frustration. I think I've gotten a little bit more frustrated (in the past) about things outside of my control, and so I've really just honed in on, 'You know what, I'm going to be better, I'm going to be the best football player I can be, work hard, make my teammates better, make guys around me better.' Because when you leave this game -- it's a short window that we get to play this game -- and I want to leave an impression here."
He spoke in that moment of the 2011 Chargers, his current teammates and how he values his reputation as an all-around receiver, one whose shoulders don't slump over not being targeted, who is as willing to hit a safety as he is to run by him, who enjoys his role as locker room DJ.
But he is also wants more of a chance to leave that impression.
Not once has Jackson's wavered from a message that he wants to remain a Charger. Even some of those close to him have marveled at that fact.
But the 28-year-old has long been something of an enigma – not the least of which is the player A.J. Smith once called "a true professional, an ultimate team player" yet is also still having two DUI arrests and a game-day citation for driving without a license held against him by the team's brass.
A straight-A student in high school, Jackson was accepted to Columbia but decided to attend University of Northern Colorado on a partial scholarship to play both basketball and football.
The son of parents who met while in the Army, Jackson spent a chunk of his childhood in Europe. Among his jobs growing up was cleaning rooms at a motel, delivering pizzas, cooking at an airport restaurant and selling vacuums door to door.
So, beneath the surface of astounding talent and a body that makes football men drool, is a man who thinks deeply, works hard and doesn't want to move around anymore.
"Oh yeah," he said. "Stability is good ... The grass isn't always greener on the other side. I know that. Honestly, I really love being here. I love the city. I love the environment we have here. We have a great team. It would be tough to go somewhere and win 5-6 games a year. No matter how much they give you, how much stats you have, if you're winning 3-4 games, that's a long season. I really just enjoy being a part of what we have here and I am part of it."
Smith, once seemingly set on losing Jackson, has left the door open for discussions about a long-term contract if Jackson goes another year without incident.
Asked if he could guarantee there would be no more issues, Jackson was fairly indignant.
"The fact that it is continually brought up, that's what it makes it the issue," Jackson said. "There has been no issue. I continue to do plenty of other things. That was almost three years ago and for some reason, you're still asking about the issue. There is no issue."