Steven Jackson takes his role as a leader on the St. Louis Rams very seriously.
So when he decided that he was going to speak to the team before Sunday's game with the New Orleans Saints, he wanted to get it just right. After finding the words, SJ approached coach Steve Spagnuolo about giving a pregame speech.
"He felt compelled to say something and I'm all for that," Spagnuolo said. "Of course, I said, 'We're not big on words because words don't win football games. Actions do.' If you're going to do that as a leader, you've got to lead. He probably put a little pressure on himself."
Steven backed up his message with action in the form of a season-high in rushing yards and two touchdowns. But the key to Steven's motivation was that when he spoke to his teammates, he did so from the heart with sincerity.
"I challenged them not as football players," he said. "I challenged them as men in saying, 'You know what, we've been hit. We've taken a lot of shots, and we will be hit in this game going against a potent offense. And, when that hit comes, I challenge you to respond in a way where you have to dig deep inside and find something inside you that you didn't know you had.'"
The speech resonated with teammates, who look to Steven in times of adversity and frustration. They spoke glowingly after the game about how his words, his passion and his desire inspired them.
"Steven made a point that these football games are battles, they are fights," Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis told the Belleville News-Democrat. "His whole point was to fight with him to the end. He showed his leadership. Like he said, there is no pretty way to throw a hook or a jab. You just have to make sure you land it. That was kind of our motto today."
The play and leadership of SJ39 also impressed members of the media. Sports Illustrated's Peter King tweeted that he was fired up after speaking to Steven on Sunday night.
"You want a guy on your team who burns to win, and who gets ticked off by a lousy performance," King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback column for SI.com. "That was Jackson coming off the Rams' embarrassing loss at Dallas eight days ago. His 25-carry, 159-yard performance bled the clock all day and limited Drew Brees' chances with the ball, and the winless Rams pulled off the upset of the day."
Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch suggested that the Rams should expect nothing less out of S-Jax, who has been the consummate leader through all the Rams' trials and tribulations, writing:
"That is what we would expect from Jackson, who has kept competing at a high level while those around him fail."
Mike Sando of ESPN.com noted that while the bulk of Steven's yards were gained after the Rams got into a rhythm in the second quarter, SJ set the tone from the very first snap:
"He caught a pass nine seconds into the game and barreled up the left sideline as if looking for someone to punish. Jackson caught the ball at the St. Louis 20-yard line, made a defender miss at the 29, lowered his shoulder into another defender at the 32 and fell forward to about the 40. One of his feet stepped out of bounds accidentally, but Jackson never sought the sideline even when it was clear he wasn't going to gain much more yardage."
Steven knew he had to do more than just speak to get his message across, he had to do so with his actions.
"I think the way you [lead] is not by words, but by going out on the field and leading in a way that inspires people," S-Jax said. "The guys rose to the challenge and I'm very proud of that."
To watch Steven talk more about his motivation with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live, click here.
The World Series run of the St. Louis Cardinals didn't go unnoticed by Steven Jackson, who rooted the Cards on until the very last out of the World Series on Friday night.
But Steven's value to the St. Louis sports landscape hasn't gone unnoticed by the Cards either. So when the Cards made a trip to Edward Jones Dome on Sunday afternoon, one of their cornerstone players, ace pitcher Chris Carpenter, donned a No. 39 Jackson Rams jersey as he took the field for the coin toss.
It was a nod from one St. Louis star to another and according to Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times, it was only appropriate for the gutsiest member of the Cards to represent the gutsiest member of the Rams:
Chris Carpenter epitomized the Cardinals' magical postseason run, for me anyway. Though he looks like the typical flesh and blood human being, Carpenter is made entirely of muscle, guts and gristle. Starting on three days rest to win game seven of the World Series sums up the essence of Chris Carpenter. Fitting that he donned a Steven Jackson jersey.
This was Steven Jackson's day. Prior to the game, he gave a rousing speech inside the Rams locker room, the kind of inspiration this team had been so sorely lacking. On the field, Jackson willed his way down the field, turning on the kind of speed that most people, myself included, assumed he just didn't have anymore. On the sidelines, he kept it up, letting his teammates know when they weren't playing their best and asking them to dig deep to preserve the win.
Chris Carpenter. Steven Jackson. Those are the kinds of players you build a team around."
SJ39 appreciated the support of the Cardinals and what they mean to St. Louis.
"I think the Cardinals being here was great for the city," Jackson said.
Steven has already received acclaim and numerous honors from those around the game for his work on Sunday afternoon.
ESPN named him one of Week 8's "Studs" after his huge performance in Sunday's win and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave him an A+ for his body of work against New Orleans:
Steven Jackson did it all Sunday. He fired up the team with a pre-game speech. He blasted the Saints for 159 yards and two TDs on the ground. He caught four passes for 32 yards. He made emotional wake-up calls to teammates when they screwed up. He led this downtrodden team to its first victory with a hallmark performance.
At Turf Show Times, SJ was selected to receive a game ball for his big day and TST's Brandon gave S-Jax kudos for taking the lead both in the locker room and on the gridiron in one of his greatest performances as a Ram.
Steven Jackson: 25 carries, 159 yards and 2 TDs. He put the team on his back this week and played like a champ. Hall of Fame performance.
Now it's time for the fans to help Steven receive a few more honors. First there's the GMC Never Say Never Award, which pits S-Jax against Ray Rice and Ben Roethlisberger. You can vote for SJ39 to win that award here.
In addition, S-Jax is up for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award against LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. To vote for No. 39, click here. Voting for both awards is open until 11 a.m. CT on Friday so vote now and vote often!
The Rams will have the opportunity to make it two straight this Sunday when they head to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:15 CST on FOX.