I hated Steven Jackson. Who was this guy coming in to the NFL - being drafted 24th overall - coming from the west coast, and Oregon State of all things?. Who are the Oregon State Beavers? And who made this guy a running back? He's built like a defensive end or a linebacker. The Ram's have Marshall Faulk. There's no need to go and draft a running back. We are Super Bowl contenders. There's no need for this.
But then Faulk's knees started to give out. Playing for so long and so hard on astro turf, both in Indianapolis and here in St. Louis, took it's toll on the future Hall of Famer. In stepped The Predator. This beast of a man was taking over for a legend. He couldn't fill his shoes; wasn't that Trung Candidate's job? But slowly, as the games went by, I started to see what all the fuss was about. The Air Marshall was being replaced by an angry mad man, a true Predator. A guy that ran as if his life depended on it. Someone who would lower his head and run over a linebacker one minute, and then the next slip out of the back field and catch a pass for a first down.
Steven Jackson earned my respect that very first season. Respect that he would demand from opposing defenses. He reminded me of a wheel barrow tumbling down a hill, out of control. And then the years started to tick by. Gone was Kurt Warner,and Marc Bulger would soon leave. Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce would move on and retire. But Steven Jackson would remain. Soon enough this would become Steven Jackson's team. A team that would never have a winning record. A team that was mismanaged and poorly coached. A team that any other player of Jackson's caliber would have left long ago. Steven Jackson was loyal. He was committed. He was determined to win. He could have bolted for any playoff team that needed his services, but he stayed in St. Louis for nine long, hard, brutal years. He suited up on game day, pinned his ears back, and threw himself across the line of scrimmage and was the lone bright spot for years.
In 2012, the Ram's would enjoy the leadership and mentoring of a new Head Coach in Jeff Fisher, and excellence in management with the new General Manager Les Snead. The Ram's would be the most competitive team fielded in St. Louis in almost a decade. Looking ahead to the future of the team, Snead and Fisher would draft two running backs in 2012. One, Darryl Richardson, would show a flash of brilliance in his running ability, and sure as the clock ticking away in the fourth quarter, Jackson would see his carries being split with two rookies. Having an option to void his contract for 2013, and seeing the writing on the wall that he would no longer be the feature back as the "bell cow" that he desired, he would test free agency.
And as we all know, he has signed a 3 year contract - perhaps the last contract of his career - to join Matt Ryan and the Falcons who missed the Super Bowl by just a few minutes. Steven's leadership shown on the field like a full moon on the darkest night, leading the young St. Louis Ram', like so many moths to a light in the form of victory, pride, and respect. This team is no longer the door mat of the NFC West, thanks in no small part to the commitment, excellence, and execution that Steven Jackson brought to the field of battle.
I started out hating Steven Jackson for pushing out one of the best players to ever play the game, my hero, Marshall Faulk. But in the end, I'm just as sad to see him go as Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, and the rest of the Greatest Show on Turf. Steven Jackson has left us with many great memories on the grid iron, and a legacy that will last well beyond our lifetime. And that's why I'll be hoping and cheering for number 39 to finally be able to reach the apex and hold the Lombardi trophy high, regardless of what jersey he wears.
Thank you SJ39,