Sam Bradford is the future of the franchise. Sooner or later he will also become the face of the Rams. Until that day, the unquestioned leader and face of the organization is the one and only Steven Jackson.
For many years the running back out of Oregon State University has held the team on his shoulders, pulling along an under performing and poorly coached squad. With the transformation of the club under the ownership of Stan Kroenke, and the leadership of new head coach Jeff Fisher, the St. Louis Rams are surely headed in the right direction. Steven Jackson has some hard years ahead as the leader of the Rams, and hopefully those hard years will result in some solid wins.
Steven Jackson was drafted in 2004 as the eventual replacement for Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. The beast from the west wasn't asked to take on a leadership role, as the team already had many of those present in the organization, the afore mentioned Faulk, wide receivers "Big Game" Torry Holt, Isaac "The Reverend" Bruce, and Orlando Pace to name a few. The team had seen recent success at the highest levels of the game, winning the Super Bowl in 2000 and returning to the big game in 2002. Like many Super Bowl teams however, the team went into a state of flux which brought about its downfall.
The team jettisoned its once heroic quarterback Kurt Warner that off season. Through attrition by free agency, the team lost many players on both sides of the ball. The declining skills of Marshall Faulk and the two stalwart wide receivers Holt and Bruce further pushed the Rams into the dark recesses of the NFL. Sooner rather than later, Jackson was asked to become the feature back on a team in decline. With that role, Jackson was also asked to take up the lead role on the squad. The upcoming season will mark 7 years since Jackson gained the starting and starring role; he will be charged with leading the team again, while helping develop his replacement and mentoring the still young Sam Bradford.
Jackson is up to the task. One needs only watch a single game to see the leadership that Jackson exudes. The man is constantly talking to his teammates on offense and defense. He encourages his fellow ballers to do better, and cheers them on when they do well. He has embodied the core leader attribute of leading by doing. Jackson has led the team in rushing, and has broken the 1,000 yard mark in every season since becoming the starter, while maintaining a career average of 4.3 yards per carry; even on a team where the offensive line has been a glaring weakness. He has averaged 402 receiving yards per season since becoming a starter, more than most of the receivers on his team.
Jackson is showing his leadership already this season by calling out rookie wide out Brain Quick. This isn't the first time Jackson has been vocal about team mates or the opposition. In 2009 Jackson drew a line in the sand challenging the maturity of Seattle Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry. Curry had been fined several times for his dirty play, and Jackson was letting him know he was watching.
While Sam Bradford is developing as a leader, the Rams have Steven Jackson there to shoulder the load; a load that will surely be heavy this season, but will lighten once things click within the team. Hopefully for the Rams that will be sooner rather than later.