He battled through groin and hand injuries that might have sidelined other running backs, he played all 16 games of the 2010 season, he led his team from a one-win season to the brink of the NFL playoffs.
But on Sunday night, Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams fell short of the postseason, falling 16-6 on the road to the Seattle Seahawks.
It was a heartbreaking end to the season, yet at the same time, it was good to finally have something to play for.
"Each and every year you don't make the playoffs, it's just as hard. It's just as difficult. Although we were one game away this year, I feel good knowing that we played for something yesterday, more than last year, being 1-14 [before our last game]," Steven said in a Monday afternoon news conference.
One year after the Rams were the cellar dwellers of the league at 1-15, they climbed the NFL mountain into playoff contention. Leading the way up that steep incline was SJ39. He rushed for 1,241 yards, eighth in the NFL and third in the NFC.
He caught 46 passes for 383 yards, the second highest total of his career. And most importantly he was a leader to a group of young men, galvanizing them to achieve many of their goals.
"To make the leaps and the bounds that we have this year is still something to be proud of and something to build on for next year," No. 39 said Monday. "We'll come back hungrier than ever. Being this close, it won't take much motivation to get the body back together for training in March."
To watch Steven's entire Monday news conference, click here.
Sunday night in Seattle, despite playing against the No. 22 run defense in the NFL Steven was given just 11 carries. Still, he made the most of his chances, rushing for 45 yards.
He also caught four of the five passes thrown his way and totaled 39 yards receiving, leading the team through the air as well. His 15 touches were his third lowest total of the season. Afterward, Steven explained his contributions.
"I just try to make the most of the carries when my number's called – receiving or rushing, I just try to make the most of it," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "And try to make something happen for the offense and for the team."
With SJ39's impact limited, St. Louis could never overcome an opening drive touchdown by Seattle and fell 16-6 as the Seahawks claimed the NFC West title. S-Jax summed up the feeling for Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch:
"The biggest disappointment is to come into this game, that was a must-win, winner-takes-all and we come up short," said Steven Jackson, his voice as glum as a funeral sermon in the aftermath of a 16-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. "And now the season is over so abruptly."
Though he played all season with injuries all over his body, S-Jax said Monday that he's as healthy now as he's been in a while.
"Other than the broken finger, since 2006 this is probably the healthiest I've been finishing the season," he said. "That's very positive, especially coming off of back surgery with a lot of questions about would I be able to endure the NFL season. I'm very proud of that, to not only go through surgery but to play in all 16 games."
The finger itself continues to heal and will be ready in plenty of time for camp.
"The pins probably won't come out until after the Pro Bowl since I am going to participate this year," he said. "We just want to make sure there are no setbacks. Everything looks good from the game last night so we just want to protect them for one more game and then well take them out as soon as I get back from Hawaii."
The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl takes place on January 30th in Honolulu, Hawaii and will be televised on FOX.
The offseason now begins for the Rams as they look to build a championship caliber team.
SJ39 believes that with Sam Bradford under center, his team is already well on its way.
"He's going to be a quarterback that leads this organization and this team for a long time," he said Sunday night. "I think he's a very bright spot."
Luckily for Bradford and the Rams, they'll also be able to count on one of the league's premier running backs for years to come. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch convened a group of local reporters and all agree that Steven has plenty left for the Rams. Bill Coats synopsized it succinctly:
"The shelf life for NFL running backs isn't very long, especially those who have gotten the number of touches that Jackson has over the years. But it doesn't look as if Jackson has lost anything, and he's proved that he can play with, and overcome, injuries. Plus, he's a physical specimen who's built for the job."
For now, Steven will take some time off and watch as the Rams craft the team he will lead next season.
"I trust that our front office will make whatever decisions they feels is best for the team," Steven said on Monday. "Whatever that is, I rest assured that I'll be ready to play football for the 2011 Rams.
A WEEK IN THE LIFE
Make sure to watch Steven's web series now, either here on SJ39.com or on the Rams web site. It's an intimate look into a week of the NFL season, and a great reflection back on the year that was.
- Jackson saw little action vs. Seahawks (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 3, 2011)
- Young Rams weren't ready for the spotlight (Post-Dispatch, Jan. 3, 2011)
- Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB (Post-Dispatch, Jan. 3, 2011)
- No excuse for Rams' no show (Post-Dispatch, Jan. 3, 2011)
- It's a stinging loss for Bradford (Post-Dispatch, Jan. 3, 2011)
- There are only so many big games left for SJ39 (Post-Dispatch, Jan. 3, 2011)
- Rams 2011 opponents, draft position set (Post-Dispatch, Jan. 3, 2011)
- The Quick Five: Rams Recap Week 17 (Turf Show Times, Jan. 2, 2011)
- Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 16, Rams 6 (ESPN, Jan. 2, 2010)
- Steven Jackson Monday Press Conference (StLouisRams.com, Jan. 3, 2011)