JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Dede Westbrook had no input into the design of his “My Cause” cleats.
The rookie picked the subject matter, though, which came from personal experience.
Westbrook will wear purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence when the Jaguars (7-4) host the Indianapolis Colts (3-8) on Sunday. It’s a topic the former Oklahoma standout knows all about.
“I had my own fair share of domestic violence, and so for me, of course, I wanted to use my image and my platform to show the young kids to think before you act,” Westbrook said Wednesday.
He said it was an easy decision for the NFL’s annual “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign, which takes place during games this weekend.
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Westbrook was twice accused of domestic violence by the mother of his children, before he transferred to Oklahoma from Blinn Community College. He was arrested on Aug. 29, 2012, after the woman said he grabbed her and threw her to the ground. Eight months later, on April 26, 2013, he was arrested again after the woman said he bit her on the arm and punched her in the jaw. The district attorney’s office rejected the first charge and dropped the second one because prosecutors could not locate the state’s witness.
Westbrook was arrested a third time in May 2016 on a charge of criminal trespassing.
The incidents caused Westbrook, the 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner and a Heisman Trophy finalist, to drop to the fourth round in the NFL draft.
“I felt like what happened back for me, of course, changed my life for the best because of it helps me to think now before I act,” Westbrook said.
The Jaguars defended drafting Westbrook, saying his off-the-field issues stemmed from wanting to be with his children.
“Most definitely I feel as if I’ve grown up for the better and I want to affect everyone else that’s probably going through the same situation,” Westbrook said.
The Jaguars are counting on Westbrook more than they expected this season.
With Allen Robinson (knee) out for the season and Allen Hurns (ankle) expected to miss at least another game, Westbrook has been thrust into a prominent role despite missing nine games following core-muscle surgery .
After leading the NFL in receiving in the preseason, Westbrook made his NFL debut two weeks ago at Cleveland and caught three passes for 35 yards. Last week at Arizona, he was targeted 10 times and finished with six receptions for 41 yards.
Coach Doug Marrone said “you go through growing pains with young players.”
“The more they play, they just get better and better,” Marrone added. “It’s an experience that they have to go through. They have the potential to play at an extremely high level.”
Jacksonville believes Westbrook is headed in the right direction, and wearing “Stop Domestic Violence” shoes is just another example.
“He’s doing great,” fellow receiver Marqise Lee said. “The thing about Dede is he’s starting to get it. The stress factor for him is going down. He’s starting to get a little comfortable out there and that’s how it’s going to be. My main thing to him is continue to work regardless of what happens and what gets said about our group.
“Continue to work, keep your head down and stay focused.”