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St. Pete developer mourns death of Bucs star-turned-businessman

Brian Hartz

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The Calaloo Group: President Ramon Hernandez, left, vice president Vincent Jackson, and director of development Mario Farias. Photo provided

One of Vincent Jackson’s business partners, Mario Farias, is devastated by the loss of the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, who after retiring in 2016 made his home in Tampa and embarked on a career that saw him delve into restaurant ownership, property development and philanthropy, among other endeavors.

Jackson worked alongside Farias in the Callaloo Group, the firm that’s redeveloping the historic Manhattan Casino as part of the Deuces Rising initiative in south St. Petersburg. The Catalyst spoke to Farias Tuesday morning, less than a day after Jackson was found dead in a Brandon hotel room.

Describing Jackson, a vice president at Callaloo Group, as “the most upbeat person you’ve ever met,” Farias could offer no explanation for the former football star’s death, which is currently being investigated by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He said he spoke to Jackson frequently, with their last conversation occurring last Thursday, Feb. 11 — the day Jackson was officially reported missing by family members. Farias could recall nothing unusual about their conversation that day, and he said he had no idea why Jackson had been staying at the Homewood Suites in Brandon.

Vincent Jackson was passionate about helping to rejuvenate south St. Petersburg, said business partner Mario Farias.

“He never said anything to me,” Farias said. “I don’t even want to begin to think about how he died. I want to keep thinking about how he lived, what he accomplished in his life.”

Farias characterized his relationship with Jackson as a “bystander in the shadow of greatness.” However, he said the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was a humble man who, despite his many accomplishments and large presence in the community, didn’t particularly enjoy being the center of attention. But he would always make time for anyone who wanted an autograph or photo.

“I never heard him say ‘no,’” Farias said. “I never heard him say, ‘Why don’t you just call my office.’ He was the kind of guy who made you feel special. He made you feel like you were the most important person in the room … I don’t think he could live any other way.”

Farias, his voice cracking at times, described Jackson as a “shining star” and “great friend” who “believed in the good in people, and that to make something happen, you have to put your whole self into it.”

Jackson, Farias said, was passionate about rejuvenating the Deuces business district, and so Callaloo Group will carry on with their plans to open a food hall, event space and performing arts venue in the renovated Manhattan Casino. The building will also feature a co-working space and business center operated by Rising Tide Innovation Center. He expects the venue to open sometime in March, despite the loss of Jackson, who he described as “a guiding light within the company.”

He added, “We are trying to pick up the pieces right now, but we were so far along that we can continue down the path without much interruption. Nothing has changed. [Jackson’s] legacy will be upheld here … it was his vision to help the south side of St. Pete to the best of his ability. I can think of no better way to honor my partner than continuing to do what he set out to do. So we are going to continue, brokenhearted, sometimes maybe even a little despondent, but we will continue.”

RELATED STORY: Bucs, community stunned by death of Vincent Jackson

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