The Journey of a Game Changer: Marlin Jackson Then and Now

If you ask Marlin Jackson what’s important to him, his response sounds a lot like former Indianapolis football coach Tony Dungy’s mantra: faith, family, and football – in that order. It’s pretty easy to adopt such a powerful mindset, especially when your leaders and mentors included legends like Dungy and the University of Michigan’s Lloyd Carr.


When we sat down with Marlin at the Tocqueville Society First Wednesday Breakfast of the year, he told us about a time when life wasn’t so easy, from living in poverty to developing a growth mindset. He also informed us of how the work he’s involved in today mirrors a lot of the work United Way of Central Indiana continues to fight for, especially with respect to basic needs and education.


We wanted to learn more about Marlin and how his path has become a platform for both youth and their parents to achieve social and emotional mobility, right here in our great city.


Where did you grow up? What did your childhood home look like?

I grew up in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio in a three-bedroom home with five people. At times, there was no furniture. I never had a bed, so I found myself sleeping wherever we had space, whether that was on the floor or on a couch. The refrigerator and our cabinets weren’t always full of food, either. We lived day-to-day.


Looking back, what programs or resources do you wish you could have had?

Anything along the lines of counseling that will cause you to reflect and teach you how to cope with your struggles. Any outlet that provides an opportunity to talk about aspects of life outside of your community and that helps bridge the gap between what you should be experiencing at home to what you’re truly experiencing would have been helpful for me.


What did attending college and playing in the NFL teach you about life?

The importance of relationships and how they shape you. Being exposed through sports gave me a different view of life that made me see what’s possible outside of what I had previously experienced. Athletics provided me social mobility.


Why were you invited to speak at the Tocqueville Society First Wednesday Breakfast?

People are always observing and watching. I think they see and hear about the work that I’m doing with the community, like the alignment with the Two-Generation approach (2Gen) and focusing on not just the child, but the parents as well. For me, it’s exciting because this is work that is part of my spirit and what I’m supposed to be doing. To be in sync with organizations like United Way of Central Indiana is exciting and makes me hopeful.


Tell us a little bit about the work you are doing now, from Fight for Life to your work with Revive Property Group.

Fight for Life focuses on developing the youth mindset, such as building social and emotional capabilities, establishing healthy relationships, feeling and showing empathy, how to set and achieve goals, and how to make responsible decisions. We partner with school systems to build positive cultures to combat what students may be experiencing at home. As we see with models like 2Gen, engaging parents is equally important, and making them aware of their children’s behavior is also part of our goal with Fight for Life. Engagement creates awareness, and awareness drives change.


Revive Property Group utilizes real estate development as a tool to create change in our community. We do this through affordable housing solutions, both residential and communal. We also partner with corporate organizations to see what job opportunities we can make possible for individuals in these unique situations.


About Marlin Jackson:

Marlin Jackson was born in Youngstown, Ohio and grew up in Sharon, PA. During high school he earned first team all-state and USA Today all-American honors. He graduated from the University of Michigan where he was named team captain as a senior, while also being recognized as a first team all-American selection in 2002 and 2004.


Jackson was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts in 2005. From 2005-2009 he started at cornerback and free safety. In January 2007, he intercepted a Tom Brady pass during the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game to seal the Colts victory. His interception helped send the Colts to Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears. Jackson also had a brief stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, but after two more injuries his football career was over.


As a former collegiate and professional athlete, Jackson was groomed and developed within a structured, organized, and challenging environment. This experience of learning, in the classroom and in the arena of collegiate and professional football, caused him to develop a unique perspective and skill set that is embedded in structure, organization, time-management, leadership, creativity, and passion.


Jackson is currently a social entrepreneur and media personality. In 2012, he married his beautiful wife, Mrs. Nikki Jackson. They now have three smart, handsome, loving boys, Camden, Kingston, and Kash Jackson.