An Interview with NFL Detroit Lion Dan Skipper, Wife Mackenzie, and Friends Madison and Alex Jacobs, Parents of Lee Jacobs, ACC
By Miriam Bernard
Detroit Lions Offensive Linesman Dan Skipper was recently given an important task: decide what organization will be supported by his own cleats in the NFL’spopular “My Cause My Cleats” program – an initiative which raises awareness and funds for various charitable organizations through custom designed cleats worn by the players during NFL games. His answer? The NODCC! This decision was made in honor of Lee Paul Jacobs, the darling two-and-a-half-year-old son of Dan’s close friends, Alex and Madison Jacobs. What ensued was a heartwarming chain of events that culminated in the family watching the custom designed cleats – painted with Lee’s silhouette and the NODCC logo – make their way up and down the field on December third as the Jacobs family experienced their first NFL game in the most special of ways, and for the most worthy of reasons.
Madison Jacobs, mother of Lee, learned at 20 weeks gestation that her son had complete agenesis of the corpus callosum. Madison and Alex, Lee’s mother and father, immediately began researching communities and resources related to DCCs, and found that the 2022 NODCC conference would be in Madison’s hometown of Frisco, Texas. The couple took this as a sign and decided to attend. The first day Madison arrived at the conference, she had a conversation with another mom of a DCC child and found tears streaming down her face as she basked in the gratitude of being somewhere others fully understood. The Jacobs family is already excited to reunite in Chicago this summer with so many of those they made connections with at the 2022 conference. According to Alex and Madison, they’ve been ready for this conference since the day the last one ended. Mackenzie Skipper, wife of NFL player Dan Skipper shared, “Going through Lee’s diagnosis with Madison as a friend was eye-opening. I just really hope that anyone going through this leans on their friends.”
A Special Game:
When Dan and Mackenzie shared with Madison and Alex that Lee and the NODCC would be the focus of Dan’s My Cause My Cleats initiative, Madison recalls instant tears. Dan and Mackenzie invited the Jacobs family to the Lions game taking place in New Orleans in which the custom cleats would be worn. Dan recalls, “That was special on my end to see them and see Lee before the game.” Alex is from Detroit and was a Lions fan from the get-go, and the family had the opportunity to share with other fans the exciting reason they were present. Alex stated, “It was our first NFL game period, not to mention the My Cause My Cleats element. Dan and Mackenzie were extremely gracious and invited us down onto the field beforehand. Lee loved being on the field and seeing the players run around.” Madison added, “The game itself was incredible as was the whole experience, but for us what was even more special was seeing the feedback on Facebook groups and within the NODCC of other parents or people with a DCC who were reaching out. … That was truly the evidence this was bigger than us. Seeing the cleats flash up on the big screen was so surreal. I wanted to pinch myself.” Lee must have served as a lucky charm because the Lions won the game and are now making their way through the NFL Playoffs!
Bringing Awareness to DCCs:
When asked about his goal for the My Cause My Cleats initiative, Dan Skipper stated, “We just wanted to honor the Jacobs family and show them how special they are to us. Through that, we got to learn so much more. We hope that every single kid or adult with a DCC got to sit there and watch that game and hopefully feel seen for what they are, because that’s how we see Lee.” Mackenzie added, “We ultimately hope that if anyone with a DCC sees this game, who saw the cleats or sees that Dan was honoring the NODCC as his cause, that they just felt COOL. That they said, ‘Wow, I have that, and it’s on a football field!”
Dan shared, “Using this platform, the biggest thing is to raise awareness as to what DCC is, and the variety of impacts it can have. But just a diagnosis doesn’t define who you are. We all go through trials, and just being diagnosed a few ‘letters’ doesn’t define you. That’s what the Jacobs family has shown us. DCC isn’t a stopping point; it’s a starting point. The opportunities Alex and Madison have given Lee through the work they put in day in and day out – they’re the ones who have really opened our eyes to this, and if we can open more eyes as a result, that’s what we want to do.”
Mackenzie added, “Madison quit her job to be her son Lee’s advocate. The ways she and Alex have advocated for Lee is the reason he is in the place he is right now physically and mentally – talking, and even walking. I’m so excited for my boys to grow up with Lee, and know him as a friend, a brother, and a fighter, because he truly is that. We get to use this platform and that’s something we’ll remember forever. If you have a DCC, please reach out to Dan; reach out to us. We want DCC families to know that we support them just like we support the Jacobs family.”
The Skipper family designed the cleats along with the Jacobs family and the proposed design was given to artist “Game Day Swagger” to bring to life. The cleats feature Lee’s silhouette, the NODCC logo, and even the popular DCC graphic of the roads between the brain hemispheres that helps lay people understand how disorders of the corpus callosum affect the brain. The designer even went so far as to make a tiny pair of custom shoes for Lee to wear at the game.
The Jacobs family had heard how impressive the design of the cleats turned out, but stated the design was better than they could have ever expected. The picture that served as the basis for the silhouette of Lee was taken outside Alex and Madison’s church, and when she saw the way it all came about on the cleats, she said there were “waterworks”. Madison recalls, “It was such a special detail that encompasses so much, and that moment allowed us to feel all the grit Lee has continued to show.”
After the game the Jacobs family attended, Dan asked Alex and Madison if they had room in their luggage for a pair of size 18 cleats, because they decided to give them to Lee and the Jacobs family. Alex and Madison were so touched by this gesture, and it was a beautiful ending to a wonderful day honoring Lee and the NODCC.
A Momentous Announcement:
As a cherry on top of the delectable sundae this NFL adventure has brought about, the Jacobs family shared in their interview with us that they wish to offer the cleats as a gift to the NODCC to be auctioned to one of our community members in hopes they’ll earn funds for awareness, research, and resources for the NODCC! Stay tuned to hear when and where the cleats will be available to view for auction!
About Lee and the Jacobs Family:
According to Lee’s father, Alex, “He is the sweetest two-and-a-half year old you’ll ever meet.” Lee is very active, loves cars, animals, his dog “Blue”, horses, airplanes, tractors, the washing machine (Mom claims he’s starting to help pull towels out of the dryer so he’s already on the road to being a laundry guy). Dad claims Lee is very decisive: he knows what he wants to do, where he wants to go, and that he wants you to come with him.
He loves his grandparents, and Facetimes with them often. His parents say one could tell from a very young age that with his family is where Lee wants to be. Mom and Dad say despite all the medical situations they’ve dealt with, “He’s an easy kid.” The family enjoys assisting Lee with his multiple therapies, taking walks with their Australian shepherd, swinging at the park, and going to the gym together.
Madison shared, “When Lee was six months old, his therapist said, ‘He is the hardest working patient I have, and he’s not even a year old yet.’” That was when they knew that his character was that of a very hard-working and persevering person, and such an inspiration – to his parents and to all of us.
About Dan Skipper:
Dan Skipper has been a Detroit Lions offensive linesman for the 2023 season, and prior to that has been part of other successful NFL teams, including the New England Patriots. He is six feet, 10 inches tall and officially the tallest player in the NFL! He is excited to play for the Lions as they make their first trip to the playoffs in over 30 years and are currently in first place in the NFC North division! Watch for Dan, #70, at the Lions game this Sunday, January 21st against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The NODCC is so grateful to the Skipper and Jacobs families for their generosity with their time, their enthusiasm for bringing awareness to DCCs, and their physical contributions in the form of these very special cleats and what the cleats have meant to so many families across the country who have felt seen and honored. From all of us at the NODCC, thank you sincerely, and GO LIONS!!!
Click here to watch the full video interview: https://youtu.be/IgBkuv7Nxpk?si=BjyDAl5C5LkvR7VX.