Justin Jefferson is known for being a receiver. On Tuesday, he was giving. Through his JJetts Foundation, the Minnesota Vikings star helped distribute 100 Thanksgiving meals at the Groveland Emergency Food Shelf in Minneapolis. He did so with a big smile on his face.
A day after Jefferson caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-31 win over Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on Monday talked about how the flamboyant wide receiver “loves the limelight.” At the food shelter, two miles southwest of the stadium, Jefferson said he likes that being in the limelight gives him a platform to help people.
“It’s a good spotlight to be in, just sharing the wealth, sharing the love, and it’s good to give back,” he said.
Jefferson greeted some recipients when they arrived. He asked Thomas Gerard, 66, of Minneapolis whether he wanted bagels or bread with his meal. Gerard came prepared to meet Jefferson, bringing three Vikings scarfs that he had autographed for his three adult children. He then expressed his thanks to Jefferson and the Vikings for having the event.
“They’re just making a presence to say, ‘People need food and we’re trying to figure that out,’ ” Gerard said.
Jefferson, who set Vikings rookie team records in 2020 with 88 catches and 1,400 receiving yards, wanted to get out in the community last year but the coronavirus pandemic made that impossible. Now, he’s thrilled to finally be able to have some in-person events.
Jefferson, who long has had the nickname “Jets,’’ launched his JJetts Foundation this year to help people in need. Following a giveaway of 100 backpacks in August at Phyllis Whatley Community Center in Minneapolis, the foundation’s second event was on Tuesday.
“This is a happy moment for me, just giving back to the community once again by giving some turkeys away, just feeding some families for Thanksgiving,’’ said Jefferson, who said he will spend Thanksgiving with some teammates after they practice Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s game at San Francisco. “I always want to give back to the community.’’
Jefferson plans to be active with his foundation in both Minnesota and in Louisiana, where he grew up in the New Orleans area and played at LSU from 2017-19. Jefferson’s brother, Jordan Jefferson, who played quarterback at LSU from 2009-12, is serving as the receiver’s manager and is helping out with the foundation.
“He really enjoys this,’’ Jordan Jefferson said at Tuesday’s event. “It gives him a connection to the Minnesota community. We’ll continue to do events. We have a Christmas event coming up. It’s a way that Justin can collaborate with his fans and also be a support hand to those in need.”
Through 10 games, Jefferson is on pace for an even better season than his record-breaking rookie year. He has caught 63 passes for 944 yards and six touchdowns, just one score less than he had all of last year, through 10 games. The Vikings have seven less, a first for the NFL.
Whenever Jefferson scores, he does his “Griddy” dance, a manifestation of an ebullient nature that captivates those who meet him.
“He’s just the same guy day in, day out,’’ said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. “He’s always got a smile on his face, is always having fun, but he also knows when to lock in.”
Zimmer loves the swagger Jefferson has brought to the team.
“He’s very confident,” the coach said. “He thinks he’s a great player, and he is a great player. He really doesn’t have any prima donna in him as far as not working in practice or being late or anything like that. He just goes about his business. I think he just loves to go play and loves to practice and I think he loves the limelight, too. I think he loves catching the ball and scoring touchdowns.”
On Tuesday, what Jefferson loved handing out turkeys.
“(It’s been) a very tough time (with the pandemic),” he said. “I just wanted to share some joy to Thanksgiving. It’s all about being around your family, giving thanks, so I just wanted to put some smiles on people’s faces for the holiday.”