Steven Jackson: Man Of Action
By Jeff Melnick
Photo by Rick Gould
When it comes to hard work, team spirit and a pair of fast hands (and even faster feet), Rams running back Steven Jackson doesn’t drop the ball.
There’s no disputing that Rams running back Steven Jackson is an outstanding athlete, a powerful runner and a dangerous threat as a receiver coming out of the backfield. His 2006 season proved he was a force to be reckoned with—Jackson not only made his first Pro Bowl, he also broke the Rams franchise record for receptions by a running back and led the league in total yards.
Jackson’s turned into the kind of player St. Louis fans were expecting from their 2004 number-one draft pick—in his third year in the NFL, the 2006 Rams MVP has seamlessly stepped into the spotlight as St. Louis’ featured running back, and there’s no fumbling in sight for this bona-fide football star. On a quiet wintry day at Ladue’s Busch’s Grove, Jackson sat down with ALIVE to talk about his teammates, last year’s breakout season and his politics on and off the field.
Jeff Melnick: Steven, this has been quite a season for you—you were named MVP by your teammates, are playing in the Pro Bowl this month, were named December’s NFC Offense Player of the Month and Bob Costas called you “the most underrated, outstanding running back in the NFL, period.” How does it feel to be the buzz of the NFL?
Steven Jackson: It feels really good; it was a goal of mine this year to make it to the Pro Bowl. And to go out on my third year as MVP of the team means a lot—it shows me that everything I’ve put in, the hard work and sacrifice, is being recognized. As far as Bob Costas’ comment, I was definitely all smiles, and it was one way to get me to stop complaining about him not showing highlights from the game that night [on HBO’s “Inside The NFL”]!
JM: On top of all that, Coach Scott Linehan praised you as a versatile running back who has brought his game to another level. Did you feel like you escaped Marshall Faulk’s shadow this season?
SJ: When Coach Linehan was hired, I felt like I had a chance to start my career over. I knew he had a reputation as being a guy with offense in mind, and I thought that if I worked hard and showed that I’m a coachable guy, that this could be my breakout year. Over the last three years, I’ve played with Marshall and I’ve played without him, and I think I’ve shown what I’m capable of doing.
JM: What was your initial reaction when you heard you were being drafted by the St. Louis Rams [at age 20, after his junior year at Oregon State], especially with Marshall Faulk still having a big offensive role on the team?
SJ: At first I was kind of disappointed that I was the 24th pick in the first round of the draft, but once my name was called, I was happy it was over with. I realized I was born to play with the St. Louis Rams and saw it as a chance for me to measure myself against future Hall-of-Famers. I took it as a challenge.
JM: Was there ever any friction between you and Faulk?
SJ: We grew to become good friends, and I tried to be a sponge. Anything he said, I took heed of it. If he had a conversation with anyone else, I would listen. It was knowledge being dropped and I wanted to take it in and add it to my game.
JM: As a three-year veteran, do you offer advice to young guys coming into the league?
SJ: I tell the young running backs that they have to prepare for a lot more than the physical side of football. Guys know how to prepare physically, but I think they need to condition their minds, too. You go through the recruiting process and get drafted, and then you have to go out and endure big playbooks, deal with the media and cope with the success when you go out in public. I think a lot of that weighs guys down, and they can tend to buckle.
JM: Speaking of public image, what is your reaction to how the public responded when you criticized Rams fans who sold their tickets to Chicago Bears fans last December?
SJ: I took a lot of heat for that on the national news and ESPN. Pretty much the whole locker room was upset by what happened, so I decided to voice it. I just wanted fans to know that the team was disappointed and we wanted their support.
JM: Marc Bulger also voiced frustration, but his was directed at teammates—how he felt that some of the players didn’t care if they won or lost [following a 34-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on December 3]. How did the team react to Bulger’s comments?
SJ: Some had more problems with it than other guys. I thought that everyone needed to take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really cared if we won, or were they just playing for a check? It was a good wake-up call that we weren’t getting the job done, so it actually brought us together. [Following Bulger’s comments, the Rams went on to win their final three games.]
JM: How far away are the Rams from getting back to the Super Bowl?
SJ: I think we definitely have the core players in place. Now we need to pick up some guys in the draft who are going to help us right away along with some key personnel guys from special teams. I think if we get that, we’re definitely capable of making the Super Bowl next year. We have the chemistry and we definitely have the talent. We’re not that far away.
JM: What future goals do you have for your NFL career?
SJ: Other than a Super Bowl ring, my personal goal is to top 12,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards receiving, and I’d also like to get 100 touchdowns in my career. And hopefully knock out Eric Dickerson’s [regular season] rushing record of 2,105 yards. I also want to leave the legacy of being a humanitarian, reaching out not only to adults, but also to teens. [This year, Jackson participated in NFL’s Take A Player To School program dedicated to encouraging kids to stay in school and participate in after-school activities, and acted as spokesman for Healthy Youth Partnership, a program devoted to combating youth obesity.] I want to tell student athletes to stay in school because you never know how far your physical attributes will take you.
JM: What was it like adjusting to the new financial status that came once you signed a pro football contract? You sometimes hear stories about football stars being hit up for money. Does that actually happen?
SJ: It happens more when you’re young and get your first deal. Now that I’m at years three and four, I’m at the stage where I can say “no” a lot easier than I could a year or two ago.
JM: And you have a family of your own now, too, your girlfriend and baby.
SJ: [Laughing] And I have to say “no” to her as well!
JM: How do you spend your time in the off- season?
SJ: With my family in Las Vegas [his hometown, where he has a second home]. I go out and I have a good time, but I’m more of a homebody because I’m gone for long periods of time during the season. So I just try to give my family and friends a lot of my time, because you can’t put a price on that.
JM: What else do you like to do when you’re not playing football?
SJ: I’m a big reader. I’m reading Barak Obama’s biography and 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene. I like to get into the thinking and strategies of men; it fascinates me.
JM: What’s your take on Senator Obama as a presidential candidate in ’08?
SJ: He should definitely be on the ticket. I think that would be a big move for America, to potentially have a black president, or even a female one with Hillary Clinton. I think the possibility just shows that America has become more open-minded and we’re starting to take command of our government. Anywhere you go you’ll have different cultures and have people from different backgrounds, and I think it’s time for our leadership to embody that.
Re: Steven Jackson: Man Of Action
good interview...hey if Steven thinks we can get to the SuperBowl then it must be true! lol
Re: Steven Jackson: Man Of Action
I really like this guy. I can't wait to see him next year with (hopefully) a stable O-line!
Re: Steven Jackson: Man Of Action
Great Article, I love this guy! Great character and great player.
By the way: I didn't know he had a girlfriend or a baby. Go Jackson!