Former Cairo Syrupmaker JJ Wilcox says it's just a coincidence his annual 5k run honoring his late mother fell on Mother's Day weekend.
But he says that made it even more special.
"Even though she's not here physically, she's here spiritually," Wilcox says. "That's the main thing that matters."
Wilcox returned to his hometown to walk alongside hundreds of others Saturday in the 3rd annual Jackie Robinson Boys & Girls Club 5k, a run established in memory of his late mother. Marshell Wilcox died in 2013 after a long battle with lupus. The new Tampa Bay Buccaneer says his mother loved working with the kids at the Boys' and Girls' Club, so he's happy to be able to continue her legacy of giving back.
"She did a great job with the community, so it's just outstanding to see the people coming in to support us," Wilcox says. "I can't express the seven years that she fought through what she did. I don't know another human being that can do it. That's why she truly is a warrior, truly a survivor to me, and will ever live on."
It's been a busy offseason for the former Cairo and Georgia Southern standout. Wilcox signed a two-year deal with the Bucs in March after playing his first four years in Dallas.
Wilcox says he wanted to join a team on the rise, and there may be no franchise in the NFL with as positive looking a future as Tampa Bay.
"They did a lot of great things in the defensive stats last year. They were [third in the league] in taking the ball away," Wilcox notes. "As a young vet that's coming into the game, you look at teams that are coming up and you want to be a part of it. They got a good culture around there, and it's all about playing for one another. That's the name of the game."
The Bucs added to their already potent offensive combo of QB Jameis Winston, RB Doug Martin, and WR Mike Evans by signing speedy wide out DeSean Jackson and drafting former Alabama star tight end OJ Howard.
After defending Dez Bryant in practice with Dallas, Wilcox says he's looking forward to the challenge of battling Evans, Jackson, and Howard in Tampa.
"They're the best 1-2 combination in the league," Wilcox laughs. "So it's going to help me elevate and grow my game for gamedays."
The former Syrupmaker says being able to return closer to home was an added blessing of signing with Tampa. He'll also play one game a year in Atlanta. Wilcox says it's vital for him to continue the work in Cairo his mother began.
"I want to make sure I come back and show my face," he says. "I'm a living, walking testimony that just because you're from Cairo, GA, you can make it."
Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved.