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    Arrow Jackson surprised by latest gain

    JOE HAWK: Rams' Jackson surprised by latest gain


    Although he thought he was prepared at the time, Steven Jackson admits now that his first season in the NFL carried more of a "Wow!" factor than he believed it would.

    No, it didn't have to do with the brute physicality of the play. Nor the difficulty of comprehending the St. Louis Rams' complex playbook. Nor the growing fatigue that goes with playing twice as many games, including the pre- and postseasons, as he did in a typical college season.

    Nope, what caught the former Eldorado High School and Oregon State running back by surprise was something that would cause a double take for any 21-year-old in his situation:

    "Here I was playing against guys that I had watched forever. ... Wow!" Jackson says, a little awe still ringing in his voice. "That was really something."

    Interestingly, by late in his rookie season, it was the bruising 6-foot-2-inch, 235-pound Jackson who was inspiring awe and creating a few double takes around the league. So much so, in fact, that in February -- just one month after the Rams had concluded their season with a 47-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in an NFL divisional playoff game -- coach Mike Martz announced Jackson would replace veteran Marshall Faulk as St. Louis' featured back in 2005.

    OK, that unexpected announcement held a bit of a "Wow!" factor for Jackson, too.

    "The news of me being a starter, that kind of caught me off guard. (The team) didn't give me any forewarning," explains Jackson, a first-round pick of St. Louis in 2004. "I expected to hear it in a more private setting.

    "But I'm definitely ready for what it brings. I'm more relaxed now and ready to do what's necessary."

    With his arrival date in training camp still 2 1/2 weeks away -- July 27 in St. Louis -- what is necessary for the highly intelligent but soft-spoken Jackson today is a charity autograph signing from noon to 2 p.m. at Power Play Sportscards at the Galleria Mall in Henderson. Jackson will be signing -- $30 for general items, $40 for premium -- to raise money for the Steven Jackson Foundation for Literacy and Education. The foundation's primary purpose is to help reduce the dropout rate in local high schools.

    "We all have dreams and aspirations, but how many of us really have the opportunity to make them come true," Jackson says. "It's great to have them and to work toward them, but everybody needs a Plan B. That's why having an education is important.

    "It's easy to look at the hotels and figure you can get a job there. But that business is cutthroat. And even if you can get a good-paying job like, say, valet parking, do you really want to do that for the rest of your life?"

    Appropriately, Jackson references the only work tougher on an individual's knees than football. Speaking of knees, Jackson's right one, on which he had arthroscopic surgery after the season, is back to being healthy.

    Following league players who last year voted the AstroTurf surface at the Edward Jones Dome as the second worst in the league, Jackson attributed its hardness as the major reason for his knee problems. But two months ago the Rams announced that the more giving -- and forgiving -- rubberized FieldTurf will be installed before this coming season.

    "Too bad I had to go through a knee injury for it to be done," Jackson says. "But I'm glad the people of St. Louis really care about my health."

    They should, considering the new importance he brings to the Rams' offense in 2005.

    As a first-year player, Jackson rushed for 673 yards and four touchdowns on 134 carries, with his 5.0-yards-per-carry average ranking 15th best in the league. He fumbled in his first game, against the Arizona Cardinals, but then went the rest of the regular season and two playoff games without a turnover.

    His breakout game was a 148-yard, 6.2-yard-average performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second-to-last Monday night contest of the season. Martz termed Jackson's effort that night as "spectacular."

    Now, Jackson, in the second season of a five-year contract, will be handed the ball more frequently.

    Meanwhile, Faulk -- who helped the Rams go to two Super Bowls in a three-year span (1999, 2001) and was the first player in league history with four consecutive seasons gaining a combined 2,000 yards rushing and receiving but has seen his numbers decrease dramatically over recent years because of injuries -- will be used as more of a "change-of-pace" back.

    "Even though there's been a switching of the guard, I feel he'll still be there to help me," Jackson says of Faulk, an offseason, part-time resident of Henderson who mentored Jackson as a rookie. "Last year, he helped me open my eyes as to how I can handle defenses better.

    "I think he knew the time would come (when he would be replaced as a starter). After a while, you're going to slow down, not be as elusive. He's been more open and wiser about everything.

    "But he's still an open-field threat, and when he's in there he'll do what he can do to help the team. ... Off the field, he'll help me."

    Help second-year player Steven Jackson create a little bit of a "Wow!" factor of his own, that is.



    </B>Joe Hawk's column is published Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. He can be reached at 387-2912 or jhawk@reviewjournal.com.



  2. #2
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    Re: Jackson surprised by latest gain

    It figures the one Saturday I have to work a Rams player that went to my High School is signing autographs at a local mall. I am trying to get the wife to get down there and get an autograph but I wish i could be there to meet him. :sad:
    Just Fix It

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    Re: Jackson surprised by latest gain

    Quote Originally Posted by rammiser
    It figures the one Saturday I have to work a Rams player that went to my High School is signing autographs at a local mall. I am trying to get the wife to get down there and get an autograph but I wish i could be there to meet him. :sad:
    One other note: I'm going to see Steven Jackson today here in Vegas - he's doing a charity autograph signing - and hopefully chat a bit with him. He's a local (high school) product, and an architectural grad, (my profession) as well.

    I'm not a big autograph guy, but will probably get one just to donate to the charity, which is his local literacy foundation, (a subject dear to me, as I love to read). Should be fun.

    The only other Ram I've ever met, (coincidentally) was Marshall, at a Jonathon Ogden golf tournament. He was pretty cool, if a little guarded, which is probably normal with strangers walking up to you all the time.

    Will let y'all know if anyone else shows up. Faulk is a REMOTE possibility, as he has a part time home here in Henderson.



    Rammiser - pm me. I'll try and get a couple of autographs and if you don't get one I'll share.
    "the Heart Lies and the Head Plays Tricks with us, but the Eyes See True".

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    Re: Jackson surprised by latest gain

    I managed to get down there at the risk of getting fired. I bought the picture with the Chiefs in the background. My wife made it before me and got the mini helmet and the other photo vs the bears. I talked to him a bit and he was really excited about the new turf. He said that it was really going to help him. It's pretty cool because I went to Eldorado High School where he went. My neice and my nephew both new him, my nephew played ball with him, they also both went to Eldorado of course. I mentioned to him about being the starter and he said he was ready for it. This guy is really down to earth. When my wife was there, my son is a little shy he's only 4. Jackson grabbed him and told my wife they need a little alone time and he took my son behind the table with him and talked to him and stuff. He said to my son that he shouldnt be afraid of him. My wife said it was really cool. I wish I could have been there to see that.
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    Re: Jackson surprised by latest gain

    Quote Originally Posted by rammiser
    I managed to get down there at the risk of getting fired. I bought the picture with the Chiefs in the background. My wife made it before me and got the mini helmet and the other photo vs the bears. I talked to him a bit and he was really excited about the new turf. He said that it was really going to help him. It's pretty cool because I went to Eldorado High School where he went. My neice and my nephew both new him, my nephew played ball with him, they also both went to Eldorado of course. I mentioned to him about being the starter and he said he was ready for it. This guy is really down to earth. When my wife was there, my son is a little shy he's only 4. Jackson grabbed him and told my wife they need a little alone time and he took my son behind the table with him and talked to him and stuff. He said to my son that he shouldnt be afraid of him. My wife said it was really cool. I wish I could have been there to see that.
    Cool. I got both pictures, but I like the Cheifs one the best. Maybe we'll hook up at a game sometime. One thing Vegas has, is a few sports bars.
    "the Heart Lies and the Head Plays Tricks with us, but the Eyes See True".

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