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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Steven Jackson - Full Speed Ahead

    Khalil Garriott

    When Steven Jackson is coming at you full speed, you'll definitely know it. His distinct dreadlocks flowing out of his helmet, Jackson lowers his shoulder and tucks away the ball—high and tight, with a firm grasp. His eyes are fixated on that sliver of open field he's about to attack. With brute power matched by equal speed, Jackson is an unstoppable force on the football field.

    But he's only now coming into his own in the NFL.

    After a breakout 2006 season, the St. Louis Rams running back has supreme confidence and the skills to back it up. Known by fantasy football addicts as a "fantasy beast" last year, the numbers speak for themselves: 1,528 rushing yards and 806 receiving yards on 90 receptions for a league-leading 2,334 yards rushing and receiving. It's no surprise he was taken by Jerricho Cotchery with the No. 2 overall pick in last week's fantasy football draft for NFL players only.

    But Jackson isn't resting on his laurels; as we speak he's working hard in hopes of breaking one of the NFL's most impressive records.

    Look out, Marshall Faulk.

    The man who succeeded Faulk as running back for the Rams wants to eclipse his great predecessor's mark for yardage in a single season. Faulk's 2,529 combined yards have stood since 1999, but if anyone can top it, Jackson is a good bet.

    Jackson, who writes out his goals before each season, literally carried the load for St. Louis last year. His first Pro Bowl invitation in three NFL seasons was hard-earned and well deserved, but he truly believes he's just scratched the surface.

    "You know what?" Jackson rhetorically asked. "I always go into the next season looking to improve every part of my game—if it's running, catching, passing, blocking—anything that it is. I'm hoping to improve and whatever bar I set the previous year, I hope to exceed it. I set a high bar for myself, and I'm hoping to be able to play at that level throughout my career," he said.

    When they drafted him out of Oregon State with the 24th overall pick in the 2004 draft, the Rams knew they were getting a talented player capable of being the featured back when Faulk neared retirement. But he has surpassed expectations by, to be blunt, being this good. He's even talking like a veteran leader despite being about a month shy of his 24th birthday.

    "I would tell guys [to] always be coachable, be humble, and receive what your coaches are trying to tell you," Jackson said of the advice he imparts to incoming rookies. "You all work together to attain a common goal—and that's to reach the Super Bowl—and once you get in the game, don't think; just react. You've been playing all your life, pretty much, so play the game," added Jackson, who said Adrian Peterson shares the most similarities with him among this year's rookies. Both were the first running backs taken in their class.

    But just because he's been through what Rams rookie running back Brian Leonard is going through now doesn't mean he's fond of the experience. "It's draining," Jackson said of going through the process of being an NFL draft pick. "The draft is very draining. The draft's not fair at all."

    Jackson says he had trouble adjusting to his first NFL offense as a rookie, but his performance in 2004 doesn't exactly back up that claim. Despite Faulk still being the go-to guy, Jackson led the team in rushing touchdowns and was third-best among NFL rookies with 673 yards that year, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. But looking back, the bigger and more complicated NFL playbooks were unlike what he had ever seen before.

    "Well I started off with a Mike Martz playbook, so it was very large," Jackson said, laughing. "So I kind of feel like I went into a situation where it was one of the hardest situations to learn an offense, and now I understand how to read a playbook and what the defense is trying to do."

    Just as Jackson strives to be one of the best at his craft in today's NFL, he holds the utmost esteem for those who came before him. His resolute confidence turns into admitted humility when he meets legends like Hall of Fame running backs Tony Dorsett and Barry Sanders.

    "It's definitely something that you can trade off stories, relationships, anything," Jackson said of interacting with the great players of yesteryear. "Any help that they can give me, I'm definitely willing to listen to and hopefully build a lifelong relationship with them."

    As if the NFL could get any bigger, its popularity is at an all-time high and will likely continue to increase as the league enters untapped global markets. Stars like Jackson have become larger than life to fans across the world.

    When he passed that torch, I was not going to fumble it.
    -- Steven Jackson on Marshall Faulk

    Jackson said, "I think the NFL is making great strides to become one of—probably the—American sport. So it's something that's great to be a part of and we're happy to make strides in that direction.

    "There are so many guys—old players, young players, so many people that are a part of the NFL family that you don't get to see throughout the course of the year."

    Jackson smiled when asked why he enjoys participating in activities with PLAYERS INC, the licensing and marketing arm of the NFL Players Association. Jackson will take and run with any chance he can get to let fans see his softer side.

    "I think PLAYERS INC is an amazing company within itself," he said. "It helps represent the players and it allows for our fans—people that are interested in investing in the NFL—to get to know some of the players. It's hard to be behind a facemask and allow people to know us when they see our faces, but PLAYERS INC gives us that capability to relate to our fans," he continued.

    The fact that the Rams running game hasn't missed much of a beat since Jackson took over for Faulk says plenty about what Jackson can do on the field. In Faulk, he had the ultimate professional who had seen it all—and he took advantage of that resource. Jackson picked Faulk's brain on all things football when they played together, and it shows.

    "When he passed that torch, I was not going to fumble it," Jackson said.

    Playing for a team that went 8-8 and in a television market that sometimes gets overlooked in today's NFL, Jackson was asked if he is underrated. "Yeah, and I understand why. Statistically, I'm up there but we need to win more. And then in the Midwest, it's hard to compete with a New York team," he said.

    That first part of the equation—winning more—could happen in 2007 thanks in large part to some offseason acquisitions made by St. Louis. Among them was return specialist extraordinaire Dante Hall, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs.

    "I met Dante a couple years ago," Jackson said. "He's a great guy, and I can't wait to get in the locker room with him. But I think it's a huge pickup—our special teams were really lacking—we never really had an ability to take advantage of a short field like we should."

    With a breakout season and his first Pro Bowl now under his belt, Jackson wants Faulk's combined yardage record but also wants to return to Hawaii several more times during his career.

    "It's something that I circled on the calendar last summer hoping that I could be … selected to it," Jackson said of being a Pro Bowler. "I beat out some talented guys, but I put up some impressive numbers as well."

  2. #2
    PHAT-MONEY Guest

    Re: Steven Jackson - Full Speed Ahead

    you go SJ.. your the man.

  3. #3
    BigDaddyPace Guest

    Re: Steven Jackson - Full Speed Ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith View Post
    Khalil Garriott

    His distinct dreadlocks flowing out of his helmet, Jackson lowers his shoulder and tucks away the ball—high and tight, with a firm grasp.
    Which is why I call him "The Predator".

    Im not sure that SJ has surpassed his expectations, because I allways expected him to be good. He is a 245 lbs mutant with great speed who managed to get over 1000 yards rushing behind one of the nations worst O-Lines at Oregon. Then he came into a low pressure situation where he got to learn behind one of the best ever. On top of that, he also had a great receiving corp to help them out on the feild and a good QB. Where is the room for error?

    And say what you wanna say about "Mad Mike" but he has a GREAT eye for offensive talent. Rams fans owe him for that pick.

  4. #4
    TekeRam's Avatar
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    Re: Steven Jackson - Full Speed Ahead

    What I love about him is that even after being the rushing leader of his class(I don't have the stats to prove it, but I have to believe it's true), being the franchise back in his third year, as well as being a first round pick, SJ hasn't lost being and wanting to be just a great football player in the riches. He sets his goals for the year ever higher each year, but is willing to sacrifice them as long as the team is winning. His attitude is all about the team as well as being a good person for the community. I certainly do thank Martz for finding us the durable power back that, while a tad slower than Faulk was, will last a bit longer and I think is every bit as good. Of course, we can give a bit of thanks to Marshall for that too. Even if he doesn't get a job in the FO I hope he keeps mentoring SJ.

  5. #5
    Dr. Defense's Avatar
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    Re: Steven Jackson - Full Speed Ahead

    This my friends is what the nfl lacks now a days. Buried behind all the player run ins with the law, the demanding more money, the lack of respect, there are players like Steven Jackson who just want to play the game. He is a franchise builder. This is the kind of person you want to build your team around. He's hard working, he stays out of trouble, he listens and always wants to improve, and he's not concerned with money. I don't know how much more you can ask for in a player. I don't know which part of him I'm more excited about. His on the field work or his off the field work.

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