“This masterpiece of dogged and loving reporting will astonish you and touch your heart. The struggles and quest for redemption of football star Jackie Wallace make for a fall-from-grace tale that’s both unsettling and uplifting.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci
The heartbreaking, timeless, and redemptive story of the transformative friendship binding a fallen-from-grace NFL player and a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who meet on the streets of New Orleans, offering a rare glimpse into the precarious world of homelessness and the lingering impact of systemic racism and poverty on the lives of NOLA’s citizens.
In 1990, while covering a story about homelessness for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Ted Jackson encountered a drug addict sleeping under a bridge. After snapping a photo, Jackson woke the man. Pointing to the daily newspaper by his feet, the homeless stranger looked the photojournalist in the eye and said, “You ought to do a story about me.” When Ted asked why, he was stunned by the answer. “Because, I’ve played in three Super Bowls.”
That chance meeting was the start of Ted’s thirty-year relationship with Jackie Wallace, a former NFL star who rose to the pinnacle of fame and fortune, only to crash and lose it all. Getting to know Jackie, Ted learned the details of his life, and how he spiraled into the “vortex of darkness” that left him addicted and living on the streets of New Orleans.
Ted chronicles Jackie's life from his teenage years in New Orleans through college and the NFL to the end of his pro career and the untimely death of his mother—devastating events that led him into addiction and homelessness. Throughout, Ted pays tribute to the enduring friendship he shares with this man he has come to know and also look at as an inspiration. But Ted is not naïve; he speaks frankly about the vulnerability of such a relationship: Can a man like Jackie recover, or is he destined to roam the streets until his end?
Tragic and triumphant, inspiring and unexpected, You Ought to Do a Story About Me offers a rare glimpse into the precarious world of homelessness and the lingering impact of systemic racism and poverty on the lives of NOLA’s citizens. Lyrical and evocative, Ted's account is pure, singular, and ambitious—a timeless tale about loss, redemption, and hope in their multifarious forms.
“This book will melt your heart. The story of Jackie Wallace is an unforgettable tale of hope, grace, and the miracle of the human spirit. Ted Jackson writes with searing honesty and deep love for a troubled man who started as his subject and became his lifelong friend.”—Jonathan Eig, bestselling author of Ali: A Life and Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig
About the Author
Ted Jackson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who has spent nearly 34 years with New Orleans’s The Times-Picayune. In 1996, he was part of a four-member team that produced Oceans of Trouble, which was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize in the Times-Picayune's history. In 2003, he photographed “LEAP Year,” a local story about high-stakes school testing. The photographs received recognition from the Robert Kennedy Journalism Awards and won the 2003 American Society of Newspaper Editors Staff Award for Community Service Photojournalism.
Through the years, he has covered the physical destruction and emotional trauma of earthquakes and hurricanes, most notably, Hurricane Katrina. For their coverage, The Times-Picayune staff won a Pulitzer Prize for public service and another for breaking news.
His work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books around the world including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, and National Geographic. He has appeared in interviews on the CBS Morning Show, ABC, CNN, Fox News, and NBC with Dan Rather and Lester Holt, has been interviewed multiple times on NPR, and was one of three subjects featured in a documentary on Hurricane Katrina on The Weather Channel’s Hurricane 360.
In spring 2017, he was named the first-ever recipient of the Jim Amoss Award, named for the long-time executive editor of The Times-Picayune, in recognition for “extraordinary photojournalism, video production and feature writing…For timeless journalism that has earned the trust of the community and the respect of your colleagues.”
He lives his wife, Nancy, in Covington, Louisiana.
"Consistently complex and absorbing...A rich and rewarding narrative about the possibilities—and the challenges—of redemption."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Gut-wrenching yet hopeful, Jackson’s work is a bracing look at the struggles and triumphs on the road to redemption."
— Publishers Weekly
"From football victories to enduring injuries, valiant recovery to lost years, Jackson pieces together Wallace's story with care. Bound by faith, his biography is a painstaking portal into the human condition and how we care for one another."
“This book will melt your heart. The story of Jackie Wallace is an unforgettable tale of hope, grace, and the miracle of the human spirit. Ted Jackson writes with searing honesty and deep love for a troubled man who started as his subject and became his lifelong friend.”
— Jonathan Eig, bestselling author of Ali: A Life and Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig
“You Ought to Do a Story About Me is elegant in its detail, abundant in its humanity, and poignant in its truth. Jackie is real—and stunningly realized in these pages—and so his path zigs and zags, driven throughout by the unbroken will of the many loving—and also flawed—people orbiting around him. Ted Jackson, the author, is among this constellation, and in his hands the story gracefully encompasses all the messy nuances of sports, fame, romance, male friendship, and the competing angels and demons that reside in us all.”
— Jeff Hobbs, author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
“When Jackie Wallace was my teammate with the 1970s Baltimore Colts, I knew him as a man of great talent and great heart. Now thanks to the powerful work of Ted Jackson, we see every haunting detail as Jackie struggled to navigate the decades that followed. It is a story defined by both the brutality of drug addiction and the beauty of friendship, and this book allows us to explore our own thoughts about each.”
— Bert Jones, former NFL quarterback
“This masterpiece of dogged and loving reporting will astonish you and touch your heart. The struggles and quest for redemption of football star Jackie Wallace make for a fall-from-grace tale that’s both unsettling and uplifting.”
— Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life