In the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams selected a powerfully-built running back out of Oregon State, widely considered to be the best back in his draft class. His name: Steven Jackson.
The hope was that he could become an adequate complement and eventual replacement for fan favorite Marshall Faulk. The result, nine seasons later is that SJ39 has become all that and so much more.
Recently Steven sat down with Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to film a two-part segment titled “Upon Further Review” about his life and NFL career.
In the interview, Steven offered up a wealth of insight on the mindset of an all-pro NFL running back, what it means to be a Ram, and what his future may hold after this year, as well as his interests off the field and life beyond the gridiron.
- Upon Further Review: Burwell and Steven Jackson Chat Part 1 – On the Field
- Upon Further Review: Burwell and Steven Jackson Chat Part 2 – Off the Field
SJ39 is a vintage gridiron star, a true throwback and the definition of “beast mode” in the NFL, combining raw power and workman-like consistency over the course of nine grueling NFL seasons. Great running backs have worn the Rams jersey throughout the years. Names like Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk conjure respect from personnel and fans all around the league, but no back has produced more in a Rams uniform than Steven.
Over nine seasons Steven has toted the ball 2,352 times for 9,929 yards—both all-time franchise highs. What makes those numbers even more impressive is the era in which he earned them—an era in which most running backs split carries their entire careers, out of necessity for survival and preservation. But that’s not the case with Steven and it’s why he enters Sunday within reach of a hallowed mark.
Heading into a Week 15 showdown with the Minnesota Vikings, Steven is just 71 yards shy of breaking the monumental 10,000 rushing yard mark, a milestone that only 26 other running backs have reached in the history of the NFL. While Steven considers himself very blessed to be in this position, he also knows success like this doesn’t just happen.
“A lot of people when they do interviews, they never thought or wanted to be a hall of famer,” he told Burwell. “Absolutely, I did. Not because of my talent. I thought my work ethic, I really take pride in my work ethic.”
When Steven was only 10 years old, he wrote a poem about what it would be like to be an NFL running back. Many kids write poems like that, but for Steven that poem wasn’t just passing childhood fantasy. It was a promise to himself to never let up in the pursuit of greatness.
His toughness and work ethic define who Steven Jackson is, and he gives nothing less than his all on each and every down. During his sit down with Burwell, Steven spoke about the ball carrier vision he has developed over the course of his career and how that helps him maximize every attempt.
“I’m very aware of what’s going on,” he said. “The strength, the passion you see me run with, that’s out of body. I know I’m blessed with the talent, I can see things before they happen.”
With nearly nine full NFL seasons under his belt, SJ39 is far and away the leader in Rams franchise rushing yards. Yet heading into this season, it was determined that the Rams would be splitting carries between Steven and rookie Daryl Richardson. Always a pro and man of value, S-Jax opted not to complain or shrink away from the moment.
“I was able to accept the challenge. It was something that always reminds me of something my mom says, no matter if she’s dead and gone, remember you always praise God anyhow. So the more I accepted it, the more I put a smile on my face, thing easier for me to go on with who I am.”
As the season has gone on, the Rams have turned to Steven more and more. In the past five games, Steven has been back up to 21 carries per contest and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s still much left in the tank and, in this rare case, age is merely a number.
SJ39’s consistency and his statistics are something of an anomaly in modern football. While many teams have gone to the air-it-out approach, the Rams know the surest bet is putting the ball in the hands of No. 39 and letting SJ do his thing.
In baseball, the greatest hitters are the ones that can see what type of pitch is coming down the pike. SJ39 has developed a similar mentality when it comes to running the ball. Some say ‘work smarter, not harder.’ Steven’s likely response to that adage would be, ‘why not do both?’
“I’ve gotten to the point of my career where I can even see whether the guy is on the heel or the balls of his feet,” Steven said. “And I can attack him and be aggressive and when I can’t.”
Steven’s ability to see the play progress before him gives him an upper hand against any defense in the league, and keeps him out in front of a game that gets faster and hits harder every year. With three games remaining in the season, S-Jax is just 164 yards shy of breaking the 1,000 yard mark for the eighth straight season.
He will turn 30 next summer, and while no NFL career lasts forever—particularly at the running back position—SJ39 knows he can perform at a high level for some time to come. Where he gets that opportunity remains to be seen, but there’s one city in his mind that stands out above the rest.
“Early in my career I said I wanted to retire a Ram. In the free agency era of football now, that rarely happens. Even with Peyton Manning, I would have swore he would have retired as a Colt. Now, it’s important to me because I’m part of the community. I have a son that goes to school in the community, I don’t want to uproot him. I know lot of people in town, from my foundation working with different community outreaches. Do I want to leave the community? I’ve been living here for nine years.”
Given the way Steven has gone about his business over the years, no St. Louis fan wants to see him go. S-Jax has been the rugged backbone of the Rams franchise, even through a string of trying seasons. Nothing means more to Steven than being a contender, and the Rams look like they are beginning to build something special in St. Louis.
Steven’s machine-like endurance through the entirety of the season, along with his veteran leadership and solid character, will make him one of the hotter commodities in the free agent market during the offseason. SJax will have multiple strong options to contemplate, but for now he remains focused on the task at hand: beating the next team on the schedule.
“That [free agent] stuff I won’t worry about for [now]. I have to keep playing the way I’m playing right now, just because I will be turning 30 next year. I have continue to show general managers and head coaches — the ones sitting here in St. Louis — that I have what it takes.”
Those who know Steven would expect nothing less. To watch complete video of Steven’s sit down with Bryan Burwell, click on the links below or visit Cinesport.STLToday.com