His mother is locked up in a California prison.

His father once served time, was addicted to crack, and fathered at least 10 children with multiple partners.

One of his brothers was killed instantly in September when he was struck by a drunken driver.

Jervonte Jackson is an underdog in life, so his long-shot attempt at making the Eagles pales in comparison. But the 6-foot-5, 300-pound, undrafted rookie defensive tackle from Florida Atlantic has family - and an example - on the Eagles.

"Of course, he's my brother," Eagles center Jamaal Jackson said. "I don't want to sound biased. But I think he has a real good shot."

Jamaal, seven years older than 22-year-old Jervonte, was once a long shot, too - an undrafted rookie out of Division I-AA Delaware State. The half brothers have the same father, but didn't meet until Jervonte was 10 and chose to follow Jamaal's path.

"My other brothers were doing different things - they were bad," Jervonte said. "But Jamaal was the only one playing sports. So I was like, 'I want to be like my big brother. He plays sports. If he can do it, I can do it.' "

Jervonte's father, Jerry, was mostly absent from his life after Jackson turned 2. His mother, Avonda Dowling, was arrested multiple times during his youth on charges that included aggravated assault and possession of weapons and drugs.

In 2002, she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine.

"It's been a tough road," Jervonte said. "But there have been plenty of people who have had it tougher."

There were many times when Jervonte didn't have either parent, and he and Jamaal and his younger sister, Vonshari Hoardeshis, sometimes stayed with their grandmother, Beatrice Reed. But Dowling always returned, he said, and insisted that her children not use drugs, even though she lived a contradictory lifestyle.

"She did well, even though she did what she did," Jervonte said. "My mom was my motivator. She was in my corner."

Dowling was incarcerated in California because she couldn't serve time with witnesses who had testified against her. Her attorney's request that she be transferred to a minimum security prison in Miami was denied two weeks ago.

Jervonte has financed his mother's cause by selling her home and through the assistance of his maternal grandfather. He said he will regroup and try another avenue through another lawyer.

"I'm taking small steps now," Jackson said. "I can't rush it. I have training camp coming up and I know me doing well in football will help me get my mother home."

Jackson said he talks with his mother almost every other day.

"Knowing that I'm going through the process and working my way day-by-day, it puts her in a positive frame of mind," Jervonte said. "When you're in prison you don't have much to look forward to. But she's not going to give up because I'm not giving up."

Jackson was invited to the Eagles' postdraft minicamp in April. Two weeks later, he was signed as a free agent, and given a chance to compete for a job in training camp. Aside from two weeks of rookie camp when he stayed with the other rookies at a hotel, with the team paying the bill, Jackson has bunked at Jamaal's house.

"Football and video games - it's like they're our common bond," Jervonte said. "I don't go out period. . . . I told him, 'I don't want to do nothing. I just want to come over and hang out.' "

He said he has six brothers and four sisters that he knows of. "There's another brother somewhere, I think," he said. Jamaal and Jervonte didn't meet until Jervonte was in the fourth grade.

"I didn't see him often, but the times I did see him it was pretty cool," Jamaal said. "Down in Miami, you really don't get to see your next of kin - same mom, same dad - you don't get to see them that often. So when I did see him, we made the most of it."

Jervonte was closest to another older brother, Kamar. In September, before Jervonte boarded a plane after playing a game against Michigan State, he spoke to Kamar.

"He said, 'Call me as soon as you get home,' " Jervonte said. "When I got off the plane from Michigan, I called and talked to him. And then I got home and my sister called me and told me that my brother was in a car accident. I was like, 'I just got off the phone with him.' "

Kamar Jackson died at the age of 29 when a speeding SUV slammed into his car. Just four blocks from his home, he was killed on impact. The driver of the SUV fled, but later was charged with vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence.

"I was devastated," Jervonte said.

Jamaal learned of his brother's death before the Eagles were to play the Dallas Cowboys, but played anyway. He went to Kamar's funeral the following Saturday and flew back in time for the Pittsburgh Steelers game, even though coach Andy Reid excused him from the game.

Jervonte, though, did not make the funeral. He had a game at Minnesota that day, and his family encouraged him to play through his grief. He regrets that decision.

"When I look back now, yeah - not getting to see my brother for the last time," Jervonte said. "That's something I should have never done."

Still, he admits it would have been difficult since the burial was on the same day as his birthday - Sept. 20.

"It was his choice," Jamaal said. "I don't have a problem with it. Certain people have a different way of dealing with it. . . . He was going through something as far as trying to deal with it and play in a game at the same time."

The loss has brought Jamaal and Jervonte closer together. Football already had them on that path.

"As soon as I made it in the NFL, I told him, 'This is what you need to do,' " Jamaal said. "I think that's when that bond really started, because we both have the opportunity to do the same thing. Our dream is to play in the NFL. Right now, we're tightening up that bond because we're on the same team, so to speak."

For now. Training camp starts Sunday for rookies.

Jamaal "says it's going to be hard, so I know it's going to be hard," Jervonte said. "Being that I'm his little brother, certain things that he went through, I'm going to have to go through. I think it's going to be pretty difficult, but I'm up for the challenge."