Ted Jackson first met Jackie Wallace in the early 1990’s in New Orleans. Jackson was a photographer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune Wallace was addicted to crack and alcohol and living under a bridge.
After learning that Wallace was a former college football and NFL star, who had played in two Super Bowls, Jackson wrote a story about Wallace. The former hometown star who reached the pinnacle of his sport had wound up on the streets.
Jackson’s stories about Wallace in the Times-Picayune resonated with readers and Wallace got help for his addiction and worked his way off the streets.
“He's sweet, he is just a sweet guy,” Jackson said. “He loves to crack jokes, he's just a very likable guy.”
Jackson writes Wallace stayed clean for more than a decade and the two became friends.
“The fact that he is an NFL player that is important and certainly makes it unique but at the end of the day he's still an addict,” Jackson said.
But addiction is powerful, and Jackson chronicled Wallace’s fall back into substance abuse and his repeated attempts to stay clean.
Last year, Wallace was doing well, living in a support program and three years sober. Jackson thought it would be the triumphant final chapter of his story and he went to visit his old friend to deliver a gift: a large framed print of the article about Wallace’s life that was set to run soon.
“He didn't answer the door,” Jackson said. “Then I got the text message back from him, I simply asked ‘Are you OK’ and he simply said ‘No’. To me, the whole story had crashed,” Jackson said.
Wallace is still missing. Jackson hopes his story, now shared more than 120,000 times on Twitter and nearly 20,000 times from the Nola.com website, helps call Jackie home.
“Jackie is personal to me. I just have great faith in this story. This story has a power of its own to reach out to him.”