As a young man, Steven Jackson collected the trading cards of some of the elite running backs in NFL history.
Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin and Eric Dickerson, all immortalized on the cardboard cutouts. He’d run over their stats in awe of their accomplishments.
“I’ve always respected all NFL running backs because that’s what I wanted to be,” SJ39 said.
On Sunday, Steven added another impressive line to his trading card as, for the seventh straight season, he eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for a season. He joins those five men and one of his peers, LaDanian Tomlinson, as the only seven backs in the history of the NFL to ever accomplish the feat for seven consecutive years or more.
“It’s a huge achievement,” Steven said. “It’s a special group of guys to be a part of. It is really special; something that you dream about. Something you’re just amazed at the accomplishment of it. But once again, my guys fought hard for me on the offensive line. The receivers, tight ends — everyone really dug in to help me achieve this and I’m very grateful for that.”
Unfortunately the Rams weren’t able to follow up Steven’s achievement with a victory and fell 27-0 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. SJ39 did his part with 103 rushing yards on 24 carries against the vaunted Steelers defense. But the fact that he and his St. Louis mates couldn’t find the end zone certainly sapped the accomplishment of its luster according to No. 39:
“They’re very stout. They’re known for being a tough defense, and stingy against the run,” Steven said. “It’s a pretty impressive feat to break 100 yards against the Steelers’ defense. It’s unfortunate that we do these kinds of things against a team that’s so impressive but come out with the loss. You play for wins and losses and unfortunately we couldn’t come out with the win.”
SJ entered Sunday’s game just 34 yards short of the 1,000 mark and he was primed to get there from the outset. He rushed for 33 yards in the first quarter setting himself up to reach the mark in the second quarter. S-Jax finally got the chance to reach the milestone with 6:25 left in the half when he took his first carry of the quarter off right guard for three yards. No. 39 said he knew he had 1,000 as soon as it happened.
“I was in sync with what was going on as far as yardage-wise,” Jackson said. “And I personally thanked the offensive line when we hit that mark. They wanted to know and they were just as eager for us to hit the 1,000 mark, just as much as I was.”
Helping SJ39 reach the historic mark was something the entire offensive line set out to do this season and specifically on Sunday.
“That was one of our goals,” left guard Jason Brown told the Post-Dispatch. “Of course our main goal was to win a football game. But in the back of our minds we knew that we had to get that done for Steven. He deserved it.”
But even after topping the mark early in the game, No. 39 kept working hard. By halftime he’d piled up 57 yards on just 13 carries and had two catches for 24 yards.
“Let’s face it, the man is a warrior,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “That’s one of the weapons we have and we’re going to use it as much as we can, knowing we can’t run every down.”
FIGHTING TO THE FINISH
It was more of the same in the second half for SJ39 as he fought to keep the Rams in the game. On the Rams’ second drive of the second half, a 14-play, 52-yard trip, S-Jax carried nine times for 48 yards. The rest of the St. Louis offense managed just four yards in five plays and Josh Brown missed a 33-yard field goal to put an end to the drive.
No. 39 finished with 103 yards, a feat in itself against the Steelers defense.
“You go over 100 yards against that defense, that’s saying something,” Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s saying something about Steven, and that’s also saying something about how an offensive line is playing down the stretch. So yeah, there’s a couple good statements there. We have to put some more plays together offensively, but we’re very happy for him.”
The Rams players were more than happy for SJ39. After watching him for several years, many of the younger players on the team have gained a special admiration for Steven. So as they spoke on Sunday, after seeing S-Jax do something so special, it was with a pride that goes beyond 100-yard games and 1,000-yard seasons.
“He’s certainly seen his share of adversity here but I think the measure of a football player, especially in this league, is how he handles adversity,” defensive end Chris Long said. “And I think Jack is the epitome of handling adversity with class. And coming out of it with great production.”
“Not only is Steven an unbelievable running back, he’s a great leader,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “I remember my rookie year when we went through a 1-15 season he was a guy that I looked at on how to get through it, how to battle through like a professional. He’s always been that way.”
And coach Steve Spagnuolo, who has counted on SJ39 as a leader of his team and a workhorse on his offense for the last three seasons had even higher praise.
“If the levels of admiration are 1-to-10, I’m at a 15,” Spagnuolo said. “I don’t know how else to say it. He’s a very passionate football player. He’s very passionate about how he plays, the way he plays. He’s passionate about the team he plays for, he’s passionate about the guys he plays for. It’s been that way ever since I’ve gotten here. He hasn’t changed.”
The Rams finish their season on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome where they host the NFC West Champion San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for Noon CST and the game can be seen on FOX.
- Yards (and losses) pile up for Rams’ Steven Jackson (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 25, 2011)
- Steven Jackson’s Hall of Fame Company (SB Nation, December 21, 2011)
- Silver linings: Rams at Steelers (ESPN.com, December 26, 2011)
- Milestone ahead (Belleville News-Democrat, December 22,2011)
- Jackson not enough as Rams fall to Steelers 27-0 (The Associated Press, December 25, 2011)
- Jackson closer to 1,000-yard milestone (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 23, 2011)
- Jackson a Shining Light Amid the Gloom (101 Sports, December 25, 2011)
- Jackson keeps on churning (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 25, 2011)
- Jackson in the club (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 25, 2011)