The memories came back quickly for Tarvaris Jackson II as he walked onto the practice field at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the first time in a decade.
When he was a young child, Tarvaris II, who goes by T.J., visited practice with his father, who was the backup quarterback on a Super Bowl champion team, taking in the sights and sounds while watching his dad live out his NFL dream.
A Wednesday, a 16-year-old T.J. was back in Seattle and back on that familiar field, remembering what the practice fields looked like and felt like under his feet, and seeing a few familiar faces who were around when Tarvaris Jackson played for team such as Pete Carroll, Bobby Wagner and Tyler Lockett.
"Everything started to look familiar," T.J. said after practice. "I felt really comfortable. I was talking to everybody like I knew them before."
T.J. was in Seattle on a trip organized by Make-A-Wish, which grants life-changing wishes to children facing critical illness. T.J. was born with a heart condition that required him to have a pacemaker installed when he was eight months old, and that has led to seven surgeries. T.J. is currently on his fourth pacemaker and will need another one in the next few years.
When he was given a chance to choose a wish, T.J. wanted to reconnect with the team his father won the Super Bowl with 10 years earlier.
And while the majority of players on the field didn't know T.J., or his father, he was embraced by the team for whom his dad was a starter in 2011, then a backup behind Wilson from 2013-2015. That time in Seattle was just part of Jackson's decade-long NFL career, but he left a lasting impression on everyone he was around, both during his four seasons as player, as well as after his career had ended, all the way up until his tragic death in a car accident in 2020.
"It was lovely seeing him, he's a beautiful kid," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "When T-Jack was here, he meant so much to us in so many different ways. He was such a good teammate and competitor and athlete and all the rest. Everybody loved him. Big smile, so much life about him. It's a shame that we lost him, but to see this image of him show up today in his son, it was really fun. He's got a good hose, lefty, brings it over the top pretty nice, got a good fastball, and he's got a whole bunch of other cool stuff about him. When he got in the middle of the players and got a chance to break them down, he showed them some real juice. He lit them up. He was really energetic and cool about it. It was a really good moment for us, and I hope for him too."
As Carroll referenced, T.J. has a live arm, just like his father, and he showed it off on the field when Carroll let him throw a few passes early in the walkthrough practice. But T.J. primarily uses that arm on the baseball diamond as a left-handed pitcher for Prattville High School in Alabama, because his heart condition prevents him from playing contact sports, and requires him to wear a chest plate when playing baseball.
Prior to the start of practice, T.J. threw passes on the field to his friend, Ashton, who was on the trip with him, while his mother, Ebone McGilvery, looked on. The group then watched practice, got a chance to interact with players and get autographs after, and in a truly unique experience, T.J. got to break down the team huddle to end practice. On Thursday, they will attend Seattle's Thanksgiving night game against the 49ers.
"It's been awesome, because I know the joy that it has brought him," McGilvery said while watching her son take it all in. "You could see his face light up from the time we got here last night, through all the things we're doing today. Him coming out here today, he hasn't stopped smiling. It's been awesome. He's been walking up to the guys like, 'Hey.' Like he's been knowing them for years. This has been awesome. This is something he's going to remember for the rest of his life."
For McGilvery, seeing the way her son connected with the team a decade since his last visit was just another reminder of what Jackson meant to the Seahawks during his time in Seattle.
"Just with the guys, how they've embraced him, just knowing how Tarvaris was, he was a loving guy," she said. "He never met a stranger; everybody was his friend, and that's exactly how T.J. is. He can meet someone, and that day and it's like, 'That's my best friend.' Just how they've all embraced him, I can see there's a special connection here."
During his playing career, Jackson showed plenty of resilience to make a 10-year career as a player coming out of Alabama State, an HBCU that plays at the FCS level. In a moment that won over teammates that season and well beyond, Jackson played through much of a 2011 season with a torn pectoral muscle, and T.J. learned a lot from the way his dad persevered as an athlete that has helped him overcome so many health challenges in his young life.
"That mentality really helps, because with everything I've been through, just keep going, do everything you can to keep trying your best, it really helps me with life," T.J. said. "Never let anything keep you down for too long, just keep going and keep doing the best you can, be the best person you can be and be the best player you can be."
T.J. also inherited from his dad a smile that can light up a room, or a practice field, and it was omnipresent throughout Wednesday's visit.
"He is really a special kid," McGilvery said. "No matter what he's been through, he always keeps that attitude of, 'I'm happy. It's something I'm going through, but I'm not going to show it. I'm going to just roll with the punches and live through it.' All the times he's been to the hospital and everything, he hated getting needles and hated getting blood drawn, but five minutes he's fine. Then going through just being a high school kid and high school problems and baseball, and still having to worry about his heart, he really just rolls with it. He just has a spirit of being happy all the time.
"He smiles through it all."
Tarvaris Jackson II, the son of Seahawks Legend Tarvaris Jackson, visited the Seahawks at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday, November 22 as part of his Make A Wish experience. Jackson II attended the team's walkthrough and broke down the team huddle as they prepare for a Thanksgiving night matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.