On the Road With Chargers Cornerback J.C. Jackson, Who Is Glad He Can Still Go to McDonald’s

When you get to whatever city you’re playing in, do you try to go out, see the city, maybe get something to eat?

J.C. Jackson: First, I have to take my NormaTec travel packs for my recovery. You have to bring a charger, iPad and phones. That’s mandatory. What else? Sometimes I bring my games too, I travel with my PS5.

Over pack! Bring everything that will help you mentally and physically for the next day. And look sharp on game day.

[Chargers safety] Derwin James. Right now, I have to give it to DJ.

The microwave thing is so real.

I always try to show my fans love. I sign autographs, smile, it’s all love. But now, [Tom] Brady or Gronk? Those are two different athletes. We’re speaking about me, but Tom Brady? That’s a different story. I can go to a normal store. He can’t! He can’t go to McDonald’s.

Do you ever think about how tame NFL travel is compared to MLB or NBA?

This interview has been edited and condensed


We be on Call of Duty. We also play Madden, 2K, whatever the guys are playing that weekend. I’m not even the gaming type. But if I have friends over, I’ll play the game all day. You know what I’m saying? I just don’t like to play by myself.

Do you still like hotels, or has it gotten old?

Here, there’s no dress code. But when I was in New England? With Bill Belichick? You know you have to dress up. Suit and tie! But I’mma make that a thing this year when we travel. I’mma keep it business casual, get back into that routine. No sweatpants on the plane this year. It’s going to be about business.

Listen, when I go to a hotel, it kills me when they don’t have a microwave in the room. We’re talking about some of the top hotels! And they don’t have ‘em. What is going on here? That’s crazy.

What are the rules for playing as yourself in Madden? When you’re playing with your teammates, do you guys avoid being the Chargers?

Not me, man. Like I said, I love to travel. I’m the type of guy who will make some fun wherever I go. I’ll make the best out of it. I never look at it like, “This is overrated.” I enjoy every moment. Every day of it, everything. I don’t look at the downside of anything.

I love going to New York. Sometimes you get snow, I like playing in the snow. It’s amazing. It makes the game a little more fun. When I was with the Patriots we played there every year. I loved it.

Raising Cane’s has been my go-to restaurant. Last year I went there almost every single day with the defensive backs before we left [for away games]. I’ll get the chicken sandwich or the four-piece combo. I love Raising Cane’s! Sometimes you need that.

Okay, the first thing I look for? Do they have a shower, or a tub that I can actually sit in? At night, I like to take a hot bath. I always request a room with a tub, always. Then a microwave. You never know when you’re going to get hungry. A lot of these hotels don’t have microwaves! You have to go downstairs. So, when I travel, I look for a microwave and a jacuzzi, or just any sort of tub.

We’ll leave the night before. Some teams leave Friday, some teams leave Saturday. But I always left Saturday at 7:00 when I played for New England. Last year [with the Chargers], we left on Saturdays.

He’s now enjoying the SoCal lifestyle as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, who gave him an $82 million contract ($40 million guaranteed) in 2022. Before gearing up for his sixth tour of the NFL, Jackson spoke with GQ about all things travel. Rocking a Gallery Dept. hat and T-shirt, Jackson let us know everything from his most desirable vacation destination, to the chicken tender institution that he frequents, to the things he learned while being a firsthand participant in the Patriot Way. If the man who goes by Mr. INT lives up to his name—and is fully recovered from the knee injury that held him to just five games last year—Charger fans will be grinning from ear to ear while opposing quarterbacks wish he was on vacation.

Do you ever go out when you’re on the road with the team?

Few people on earth travel as often as professional athletes. With On the Road, the GQ Sports Travel Questionnaire, they’re weighing in on everything from room service, to flying comfortably, to their favorite chain restaurants.

You’re still walking in like, “Wow, this is really my life?”

I was just asking myself that! How do [NBA players] maintain playing three games a week, maybe four times a week? In the NFL, we get our opportunity once a week. Bruh, I wouldn’t be able to do it! Back and forth, back and forth, I don’t like that. That’s too much for our bodies.

You really get to pick whoever works the best for you! It ain’t no rules. You gotta understand, a lot of athletes play video games. For real, you’d be surprised.

What’s your plane move? Movies? Sleep?

Who’s the best NFL player at Madden?

How much traveling have you done for pleasure?

Not anymore. I’m used to it. It kind of brings me peace of mind now. Now when I travel, I like to read books, watch movies. Hey, sometimes? I like to communicate with people. You never know who you’re sitting next to! You know what I’m saying?

I get that feeling every time, man. A lot of guys are not here, you know what I’m saying? Every time I get on the plane or step in a hotel, I thank God for allowing me to be here. You never know when this shit over. Have fun. Smile! I don’t know how other players look at it, but I enjoy every moment of this shit. This is year six for me, and I’m still like a little kid. I love going to hotels. That’s part of football, you travel with each other and meet different people and build relationships.

So, if you’re playing on Sunday and it’s a road game, when do you guys fly out?

What’s your game?

How do you feel about flying in general? Any anxiety or fear?

I went to Turks and Caicos a few months ago. I’ll do another big trip soon. I haven’t decided where yet, but I want it to be somewhere pretty far and experience something different. I’m a tropical island, beach-type guy. [I’ve] never been anywhere too far. I’ve been to Cancun and Cabo but those were like two-hour flights. Same with Jamaica. Coming to Cali from Florida [when I joined the Chargers] I think was the longest flight I’ve ever been on.

Have you had any crazy experiences with fans on the road?

GQ Sports: What are three essential items you have to bring for an away game?

What makes a good hotel room, and what makes a bad hotel room?

Well, it depends. On the way there, I try to stay hydrated and be locked in. There’s no playing around. Guys are watching film, watching movies, or we’ll just get some rest. That’s on the way there, you know what I’m saying? But after, let’s say we won. I’ll keep everything positive. If it’s a big win, we’re gonna drink. We’re gonna play cards, play some spades. Let’s celebrate the win with each other! The way there, everyone is locked in trying to get mentally ready.

I love traveling, that’s one thing about me. I’m still getting used to it, but I love being on the road and seeing different cities, climates, weather. I love it.

Oh yeah, a few times. It was the worst. I didn’t know what to do! What can you do? You can’t jump off, you can’t fly the plane, what can I do? This was on a commercial plane, worst turbulence ever, bro. I was going to New York I believe. It was just bad weather and we were going through it. With the team, I haven’t had any bad experiences.

What city do you like going to the most?

Have you ever had any traumatizing flights?

Dubai. I heard about the luxury and the nice things that they have. You know you can ride a car on the water? I was watching a video of Moneybagg Yo and his girlfriend do it. I said, “Where can I go do this?” Somebody told me they had it in Dubai. That’s definitely on my bucket list.

Yeah, we’ll go out for dinner that night [we arrive]. We don’t go out out like that, but we’ll link up. Sometimes we just watch film and someone will order food to the meeting room. Everywhere we go, we eat good. They feed us good! Every city we go to, the food is the best of the best.

[laughing] I’ve never witnessed that! I’ve never seen anything crazy on the plane. Everyone is normal. We carry the brand the right way when we travel.

Where’s somewhere you haven’t been yet but want to go?

Do you have a dress code on the way to games?

On the field, it’s very clear that J.C. Jackson knows what he’s doing. The 27-year-old Florida native spent the first four years of his career establishing himself as one of the savviest defensive players in the league with the New England Patriots, where he earned a Super Bowl ring after the 2018 season.

What travel advice would you give to a rookie? Is there anything you wish you knew back then?

Do you have a city that you don’t necessarily care for?

Do you have a favorite chain restaurant you like to seek out?

Have you done any of the Europe or Mexico games yet?

I try to avoid going out, seeing people, getting in trouble. I just stay in the room. They have everything we need there! You need a massage, you need food, anything you need, they’re going to try their best to get it for you. My thing? I’m going to order a chicken Caesar salad or some chicken wings. Those are my only two choices. I try not to eat so heavy the night before a game. You gotta stay light. Maybe some salmon, something like that.

No sir. I’m dying to go overseas to play, bro. I’ve never been to Europe. I want to play in London, Paris, somewhere overseas. People tell me that London feels a lot like New York.

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