Minutes into a conversation with Devin Jackson and anybody in the world will come to two conclusions: One, he talks a mile a minute and two, he's oozing with ideas.
Jackson stood in the tailgate lot at the annual City vs. Poly high school game at M&T Bank Stadium in the haze from pit beef grills, amid people decked out in their best orange and black attire, and discussed the release his first shoe from his new luxury shoe company, Jacob Pierre, and thought back to having a hustler's spirit at a young age.
"It didn't matter what I was selling as long as I was selling. My people will tell you ever since I was little I would be doing something to make money," he said. "I'd wash cars, sell people candy, whatever it took. They've been beyond supportive. It's helped me a lot over the years."
But the public school system hadn't quite found a proper place for people like him: "When I went to Dunbar I hit a brick wall, because I was suddenly, around 16, still with the same hustler's attitude and no real way to funnel it. I had a teacher tell me I wasn't going to succeed in any of my endeavors. It kind of put a different fire under me. We don't have any spaces in public schools to groom entrepreneurs."
When people hear Dunbar, they think athletic phenoms Muggsy Bogues, Skip Wise, and the now franchise-tagged St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin. Jackson didn't play sports at Dunbar, but he wants his legacy to be an alumnus who became a businessman, that matters just as much as the countless championship banners in the gym.
"I started a marketing company at 16, a online social enterprise for fundraising in my early 20s, and then when I did I Got Game it seemed too simple to some people to work, but it did. My most successful business—and I've been through a lot—has been I Got Game’ brand."
I Got Game Brand socks are worn by athletes of all ages across Baltimore: "You know at Dunbar most of homeboys were playing sports, and I always saw them writing different messages on their socks, so I decided to start designing socks that said 'I got game.'"
Jackson realized the Baltimore trend had hit seismic levels when Lebron James himself wore them at a Cleveland Indians game.
"We currently have distribution through several outlets, but the biggest surprise was when I saw a pair of them on the feet of LeBron James! Man I almost lost my mind," he said. "That sort of pushed me further into footwear. Jacob Pierre is taking the message from that moment and moving on it."
The first shoe Jacob Pierre will release this Wednesday is the Escobar 1, a hand-made designer boot that embodies Jackson's charisma and knack for meticulously crafted extravagant style. JacobPierre.net has already began taking orders online for the shoes, but this week presents an opportunity for the city to meet its new footwear artisan. Jackson will be joined by D. Watkins at 7 p.m. at the Impact Hub, where he'll reveal the sneaker in-person and discuss its creation.