It was only fitting that 10,000 happened like this.
With 1:47 left in the third quarter of Sunday’s game with the Vikings and his Rams trailing 33-7, Steven Jackson took a handoff from Sam Bradford and burst through the middle of the line for a solid nine-yard gain.
In nine seasons, Steven has gained tough yards in chunks with his own signature brand of power running. But this particular chunk of turf was special. With that run, before 55,771 blue and gold clad Rams faithful, Steven became just the 27th player in NFL history to rush for over 10,000 yards in his career. He achieved the feat in his 129th game, on his 2,365th carry.
Only 17 running backs have done it in fewer games and just 11 needed fewer carries to do it. Among his peers that have also reached the mark, Steven’s 18.3 carries per game is relatively low, a sign of the passing era he was drafted into. And while others were able to rely on vaunted passing games to open up holes for them, No. 39 passed 10,000 despite often facing boxes of eight and nine men. He absorbed plenty of contact along the way, but through his nine seasons, Steven has missed just 15 games due to injury.
“It means I’ve been blessed to be durable in this league and to go out there and just be effective when I had the chance,” he said.
After his milestone run, SJ39 made sure the pigskin wound up in safe hands on the sideline, and the crowd rose to their feet to pay tribute to the greatest Rams running back of all time. It seemed everyone inside Edward Jones Dome knew immediately the significance of Steven’s nine-yard gain. His 10,000 career yards have been earned the hard way, with amazing blows of power running and a workmanlike consistency that is a throwback to gridiron legends of old.
“That’s a heck of an achievement,” Bradford said. “It would have been really nice for us to get that with a win just to make it that much sweeter for him. But even a loss doesn’t take away from that. His career, what he’s been able to do, it’s remarkable.”
Steven has accomplished his rare feat with selfless discipline, focusing always on the team first and individual accolades second. He has weathered a series of difficult seasons with the Rams, but has always been the team’s ever-steady backbone. Along the way, SJ39 has put together a bone-crunching highlight reel, a how-to guide for being one of the greatest running backs in football history.
“I never forget that regardless if the praise comes, I’ve had great success,” he said after the game. “I’ve been blessed with an amazing support group in my family and my mom and my dad. I never forget that I was a young guy, just dreaming to be part of the NFL. When you hope and wish, you never know if it’ll come true. I’ve consistently been able to show up and be a hard-working kind of guy.”
Despite Steven’s dual threat performance of 73 rushing yards and 73 receiving yards—his top offensive output of the season—the Rams could not catch up with the Minnesota Vikings, losing 36-22.
But the fans that stuck it out long enough to witness No. 39’s milestone run, showing their genuine appreciation for the outstanding career Steven has put together in St. Louis. Though the Rams trailed by a disappointing four scores at the time, the fans realized the significance of a running back—especially in this day and age—who has maintained a workhorse approach on a team that has often underachieved.
“The fans are just a class act and you want to just give them an acknowledgement for sticking around,” he said. “The game got out of hand for a second but for them to stick around — to say goodbye on the season, you want to acknowledge that.”
Steven has emerged as one of the greatest Rams of all time, and was grateful to the St. Louis faithful for their support Sunday and throughout his nine years in the blue and gold. Getting to pass the 10,000 yard mark in front of the home crowd meant more than anything.
“It means a lot. It’s come full circle in my professional career so far,” he said. “I have a great respect for the fans, I have a great understanding of how things work in this town. And I think they’ve come to understand how I tick and what motivates me. It’s a mutual respect and it means a lot.”
The fans in the stands—many of them wearing their official Steven Jackson jerseys—weren’t the only ones to appreciate Steven’s milestone moment on Sunday. Even while coping with a loss that all but eliminated St. Louis from the playoff race, head coach Jeff Fisher recognized SJ39’s shining moment and what it means to have that type of player on your team.
“That’s really one of the only highlights of the day today,” Fisher said. “Just for me personally and for the fans that were here, to be able to see that and witness that it’s a tremendous accomplishment. He’s been a tremendous person to this franchise and to this city. He’s been a great player.”
For nine years, Steven has been the go-to guy for the Rams franchise, on and off the field as Nick Wagoner of StLouisRams.com wrote:
“Taking his cues from Rams legends like Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, Jackson made it a point of pride from early in his nine-year career to be the guy his team could count on week in and week out, no matter the situation.”
Steven now sits at 10,002 career yards, with much more left to offer. With two games remaining, S-Jax is only 91 yards away from earning his eighth straight 1,000-yard season.
But what cannot be measured in numbers is the leadership Steven brings to the organization, the voice he brings to the locker room, or the wisdom he brings to the young players as he helps build the Rams into a contender. His teammates were proud to share the field with Steven as he passed his milestone.
“Ten-thousand yards is a great achievement,” tight end Lance Kendricks said. “You can’t say any more about him. He’s a great guy, a great leader, a great running back. He’s been leading this team for a long time and he’s been doing what he needs to do on the field. Props to him.”
As the crowd took a moment to applaud Steven’s feat after the nine yard run, even members of the Minnesota Vikings tapped him on the helmet to congratulate his achievement.
“To have your peers give respect and acknowledge that accomplishment, it means a lot,” Steven said. “I’ve played against these guys before and a number of them I’ve known through the NFL. But to have those guys acknowledge my accomplishment, it means a lot.”
Steven—who owns the Rams franchise record for career rushing yards—is also just one reception shy of fifth place on the team’s all-time list. While he has accumulated an impressive stack of personal accolades, team successes have been hard to come by for the Rams over the past several seasons. Since coming to St. Louis in 2004, he has yet to be on a team with a winning record—let alone a team contending for a championship, Steven’s ultimate goal.
With this season winding down and wide open options waiting in the offseason, Steven has been asked time and again about his future. Just like his game, Steven’s answers always remain consistent.
“I have two games for sure,” he said. “We have a decision to make in the offseason, but I will seek the counsel of some people that I have great respect for. I don’t think about that. I still have two games to do my job and to do it at the way I play, I need to be completely focused on that.”
No one has ever—or will ever—questioned Steven’s steady motivation. With games against the Buccaneers and Seahawks rounding out the 2012 season, Steven will continue to work and run like he always has; like he’s a rookie, still trying to make the team.