I've been critical of Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the past. I've called him one of the 50 biggest jerks in sports. He preens too much. He's lost the football due to premature celebration en route to scoring a touchdown. Twice. He has, at times, been a clown on the field.

Yet there has always been this other side of Jackson -- dedicated and big-brained. The word dedicated is what applies most to Jackson and that is a word many would not use to describe him. Until now.

A documentary about Jackson’s life, #10 DeSean Jackson: The Making of a Father’s Dream, debuted Sunday and shows the player in a way very few know him. It's a blunt and intense look at what it takes to become an NFL star, since it features thousands of hours of footage illustrating Jackson's rise to the NFL. It feels like you're growing up with Jackson.

His father, Bill Jackson, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009, is the co-star of the documentary. He had, without question, maniacal ways of pushing DeSean. We meet Bill telling the story of how before DeSean was even a teenager, he'd make him jump rope up stadium steps.

Bill once put a hole in a tennis ball, tied a small rope through the hole, and attached the other end around DeSean’s waist. Bill's sister had a poodle that loved chasing the tennis ball and the dog would chase DeSean around a park. Every time the poodle got the ball, DeSean had to do 15 pushups.

It didn't matter to Bill that dogs are, you know, faster. Because they're, you know, animals. Bill didn't tolerate failure.   

When Bill would write letters to his sons throughout their high school and college days, he often ended them: "Think NFL."

Bill brags in the film how he never gave Jackson time off. When people would ask Bill why he was driving his son so hard, he’d reply: "If I don't stay on him, he'd be running those streets." Bill was always worried that DeSean had so much energy, he'd use it to join a gang.

The best part of the documentary is DeSean himself. I've been told repeatedly by several of his teammates Jackson is a highly intelligent and driven athlete. Now, after watching this, you know what those players mean.

In fact, when I texted an Eagles player who knows Jackson well after watching the documentary, the player said: "Told you so."

What's clear is that Jackson's used a blue-collar work ethic to become a two-time Pro Bowler who is third among active receivers in yards per catch. A combination of Jackson's father and Jackson's discipline kept him out of trouble.

While the footage is admittedly designed to manipulate the viewer into thinking DeSean is a workout fiend, there's no denying the result. He was a workout fiend. He still is. Jackson became one of the NFL's most explosive receivers because if his father wasn’t pushing him, he pushed himself. He brushed away doubts that he'd never play in the NFL because of his smallish size and worked to emphasize something that made him unique -- his speed.

There's also no denying how sharp and dedicated Jackson has been throughout his entire life. We see the real Jackson here, not the clown. Not the jerk.

This is only the second movie where we've seen the NFL father of a high-profile player this close and personal. The former was the father of Todd Marinovich. Marv Marinovich was the uber-Dad; the overbearing father, the nightmare sports Dad who, in many well-told examples, turned his son into a lab experiment.

Todd's athletic Frankenstein-ness literally began in the crib and continued into his childhood years. Sports Illustrated wrote what was a damning story in which it dubbed Marinovich a test tube quarterback.

This graph of the story would stick to Marinovich throughout his entire life, even after his football career ended, and his life of crime began:

"When he went to birthday parties as a kid, he would take his own cake and ice cream to avoid sugar and refined white flour. He would eat homemade catsup, prepared with honey. He did consume beef but not the kind injected with hormones. He ate only unprocessed dairy products. He teethed on frozen kidney and liver. When Todd was one month old, Marv was already working on his son's physical conditioning. He stretched his hamstrings. Pushups were next. Marv invented a game in which Todd would try to lift a medicine ball onto a kitchen counter. Marv also put him on a balance beam. Both activities grew easier when Todd learned to walk. There was a football in Todd's crib from day one ... "

Todd has stated in the past, including to me, that he knows his father loved him, but he truly couldn't tell. His father was more of a trainer than a Dad and the Dad tried to use Todd as a conduit to success following the Dad’s own athletic failures.

Jackson's father was driving and did have his moments of utter insanity. He once got into an argument with DeSean's older brother, who is also one of the filmmakers, and pulled a gun on him. Bill repeatedly got into disputes with Cal coach Jeff Tedford. Tedford basically says in the documentary that Jackson sat out the final few games of his career at Cal so he'd be healthy for the NFL Draft.

One of many scenes that make this movie so fascinating is when Andy Reid calls Jackson on the day Philadelphia selected him. The documentary shows DeSean saying: "I was on the phone with Andy Reid. He said, 'I don’t want your family to be a problem. I don't want to deal with your dad.' He said some bad things. I just wanted to let you know. That's kind of messed up, though."

What the movie clearly demonstrates was Bill's great love of DeSean. Bill was able to do the balancing act that is so difficult with extremely talented young athletes -- be a parent, a disciplinarian, push them hard without breaking them, while wrapping all of that inside an indestructible coating of love.

This movie shows the real DeSean Jackson. Not the clown, but the hard working and brilliant player who made himself a star.