Steven Jackson and his Rams teammates finish the 2009 season on Sunday with a chance to begin 2010 and a new decade on a high note.
St. Louis hosts the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome in their 2009 season finale looking for one more win before they head into a long offseason.
Steven is expected to play Sunday, barring a setback on gameday like the one that kept No. 39 out of the last Sunday's tilt with the Arizona Cardinals.
Steven told reporters this week that his back flared up after the plane ride to Arizona and given that travel is minimal when the Rams play at home, he feels he should be good to go.
"The back was just giving me a lot of problems," Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after sitting out against the Cardinals. "It wasn't loosening up. There was pain down my leg. So it was all clear signs telling me that I wasn't ready to go. Signs that I wasn't having in previous weeks. I didn't want to do something to compromise the team," I didn't want to take the team hostage and play for selfish reasons … personal goals.
"Being home this last week I think is going to do wonders for the back."
Early this season, S-Jax rushed for 79 yards on 23 carries as the Rams fell hard, 35-0 in San Francisco. The San Francisco defense is ranked seventh in the NFL against the run, led by linebacker Patrick Willis, who leads the league in tackles.
The 49ers allow an average of 97.7 yards on the ground per game, one of only eight NFL teams that allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game.
In his career, No. 39 has played 10 games against San Francisco, logging 215 carries for 816 yards and three touchdown runs. Steven also has 33 catches for 231 yards against the 49ers. During his rookie year, S-Jax scored his first career touchdown in a game against San Francisco on October 3, 2004.
But S-Jax hasn't found the end zone against the Niners since 2006. He'll work hard to change that on Sunday and score a touchdown for the fifth time this season.
In a must read article for ESPN, Jeffri Chadiha takes a look at SJ39's turn as a leader this season when the Rams needed one the most:
St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo gave their mandate to running back Steven Jackson long before their season turned ugly.
We're going to lean on you for leadership, they told Jackson this past offseason. We're going to need you to play through pain and provide a positive example for younger players.
A few months later, Jackson is still delivering on that expectation.
Steven told Chadiha of his desire to help build something special in St. Louis again. No. 39 was a part of the team at the tail end of their dominant run in the early 2000's but the Rams have fallen on hard times since. He's determined to build it back up again.
"His determination and his work ethic have been unbelievable," Spagnuolo said. "He knows there are 11 guys aiming for him on every play because we haven't softened up the defense with the pass. But he keeps finding ways to grind out tough yards."
Steven credits his determination to his desire to leave behind a legacy, something that he holds very close to his heart, as quoted by Chadiha:
"I want to be great one day," he said. "I want to have a Hall of Fame career. And right now, I don't feel like I'm creating that kind of legacy."
Even though Jackson is correct, he is doing something that is just as important: He's showing a young, losing team what it takes to be a winner in the long run.
To read Chadiha's entire column for ESPN, click here.
DOMINANT DECADE FOR 39
The arrival of the New Year brought to a close the first decade of the 21st century and for SJ39, it was quite a decade to remember.
Steven went from Las Vegas High School star to Oregon State stud and on to the NFL where he's become one of the best running backs in the league as a member of the St. Louis Rams.
At his NFC West blog for ESPN.com, Mike Sando ranks Steven as the second best runner in the NFC West over the last 10 years, trailing only Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander who played 25 more games in the decade.
Action Jackson started 71 games, logging 1,528 carries, 6,655 yards and 41 touchdowns in the decade.
At Eugene, Oregon's local CBS affiliate KVAL, Brian Elder ranked Steven as the top Oregon State player of the decade:
He was big (6-3, 223), fast and elusive. Steven Jackson truly had it all, and he was one of the most dominant running backs in the nation during his two years as a starter at OSU.
Jackson arrived at Oregon State as a high-profile recruit out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He was a ready-made prospect who contributed right away as a true freshman.
The Rams and 49ers kick off their final game of the 2009 season at Noon CST from the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Sunday. The game can be seen on FOX with Matt Vasgersian and Ross Tucker on the call.
Battering Ram proves resilient (ESPN.com, December 25, 2009)
OSU's top ten players of the 2000's #1: Steven Jackson (KVAL.com, December 31, 2009)
49ers Alex Smith, Shuan Hill share Garry Niver Award (Mercury News, December 30, 2009)
On the air: Rams in Week 17 (ESPN.com, December 29, 2009)
By the decade: NFC West runners (ESPN.com, January 1, 2010)
Jackson is hoping to play in Pro Bowl next month (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 31, 2009)
Null and void again (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 28, 2009)