It’s now mostly known and expected that Los Angeles Rams receiver Van Jefferson is considerably more likely to establish his services in the NFL for years to come with his 2021-2022 campaign. Sean McVay, recently expressing big expectations for the third receiver drafted in his tenure, would just as soon it be under his tutelage.
The Josh Reynolds departure certainly opens the door of opportunity a bit wider. However, it should also be known that Jefferson’s desire to succeed runs deeper than mere NFL accolades –— not an uncommon story in itself.
Yet in this day and age, young men so easily connect and confuse respect with love and acceptance. Jefferson might be the perfect example that it’s possible to carry a chip on your shoulder without bitterness.
Los Angeles Rams Receiver Van Jefferson is Carving His Own Path
Sports fans see it all the time these days. It’s quite prominent in the NBA and NFL. The chip went wrong. We all remember then-Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman’s excessive pride-filled post-game rant that included the infamous, “don’t you ever talk about me!” soundbite. Sherman had simply deflected a Michael Crabtree-intended pass that directly led to a Seahawks interception and victory.
Then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick also received Sherman’s disrespect in the form of a gestured throat-chocking. The night’s tasteless actions took attention away from the city of Seattle’s NFC Conference championship win. He may have apologized in his own way the next day but the damage was done. In time, largely forgotten until his latest episode.
This ‘me against the world’ mentality often appears to be a motivating vehicle to reach personal goals. Nothing completely wrong with that, in fact, in most cases. But when a person lacks a mature and reliable social structure, the mental maneuvering needed through various life obstacles some paths demand over time can suffer.
His Path Made Him Born to Separate
Being a son choosing to follow in the footsteps of a successful NFL veteran can be tough. It often adds pressure to what these young men are already trying to accomplish for themselves. For young men such as Van, the amount of pressure might have been multiplied. His father, Shawn Jefferson Jr., not only made it to the NFL but carved his own thirteen-year receiver history into it. He accomplished it all via hard work and self-discipline. The discipline got passed down to his son.
With preexisting insecurities possibly already firmly entrenched in his psyche, his father’s tough love may not have been timely. One such insecurity was growing up with the embarrassment of having a name he despised, Vanchi LaShawn Jefferson Jr. Reportedly, father Jefferson Jr., going by Shawn himself, handed his burden down against his own will.
Back then, it’s how things were done regularly. Vanchi III ultimately shortened it in 5th grade after sinking at his school desk once too many times. The name stuck. He’s since moved on without changing his name out of respect and appreciation for his father.
Usually, the appreciation grows with age. Good fathers always want what’s best for their children and with sons the push can be excessive. Van himself has admitted his father was stern. He remembers how some practices felt like they would never end. There were times when he could have easily given up, especially with basketball being his first love back then. These days, many around his age would have.
Early on in high school, Van broke his fibula. Not long after his cast was removed, his university of choice growing up, Ohio State, hosted a football camp. Not fully healed, Van attended. Shawn would learn that his son had no quit in him.
Ultimately, a Player’s Choices are Their Own
If you follow Van, you know his personality favors his mother, Marla Jefferson. She was and remains the peace and stability in his make-up. His parents, perhaps, are the perfect blend of drive, determination, encouragement, and balance young people need when real life’s obstacles come calling. He blooms when speaking about her, as well he should. Still, make no mistake, it is because of Shawn Jefferson’s firm direction and attention to detail that his son is as good as he is.
Van thanks and appreciates him every chance he gets. And yet, all that aside, Van is his own man and has made his own critical decisions. The defining one being the choice to transfer from Ole Miss to become a Florida Gator.
Sure, some can say that it was because of his father’s success that Van succeeded. To be taken to all the football facilities where Shawn practiced is indeed inspiring. Van could have easily become cocky or overconfident like others with such advantages in life. However, like his mother, he is more in tune with his feelings –— also known as being sensitive. Sensitive people, especially when young, often experience much more pain and hardship.
Having an embarrassing name through school gives most of us an inferiority complex. It did Van. The overbearing schooling of his father’s ideas of what it takes to make it to the NFL was enough to make an average kid quit. Throw in the exhaustive comparisons to his dad. People constantly dubbing him the son of an NFL player, which he’d question often. It was all enough to wear him down.
But as his father tells it, it has fueled Van to succeed on his own terms. And it’s a testament to his character that he’s done this with such class, grace, and gratitude.
All’s Well That Ends Well
As both parents will tell you, Van is now better than dear dad was. At least, more physically gifted, for sure. He’s listed as 6’1″, 200lbs with 9 1/8″ hands. This to Shawn’s 5’11” and 185lbs (16lbs lighter pre-combine) though it’s interesting that Shawn’s hands are reportedly larger. Overall, not much separation in the area of football between the two. Both are hard workers, both determined to succeed, and very passionate about how they go about it. Shawn Jefferson’s drill sergeant mentality work ethic differs greatly.
Van, admittedly, prefers to joke around and have fun during practices. But Van wouldn’t complain if their careers aligned in the area of longevity.
Where Van would likely love to separate himself from his father is in on-field production. Shawn has never had a 1000-yard season. His best was 841 yards with the Pete Carroll-coached 1997 New England Patriots led by Drew Bledsoe. Additionally, Shawn’s best touchdown output for a single season was only 6 (once, and 4 once). Van could conceivably surpass that under 16 games and well under his thirteenth year as a pro. In fact, under McVay and with Matthew Stafford under center I’d bet on it.
His mother may have initially wished for her son to be drafted by the New York Jets, Shawn being receivers coach there at the time. But it’s fairly safe to say it worked out well for Van. He is in the perfect location for the person he is and part of a pass-first offense. He’s with players of equal maturity as teammates and coming into his own under one lead dog in the twilight of his career.
It will be interesting to see how mom handles his pending success going to division rival Arizona Cardinals in 2021, where dad currently coaches receivers.