Corvallis, Oregon will always hold a special place in Steven Jackson's heart.
It was in Corvallis, at Oregon State University, that Steven honed his raw talent into that of an NFL star. His experiences at OSU helped Steven become the man he is.
"I never left home before I decided to come here, so my first stop of turning into a young adult was Corvallis, Oregon," he told the Statesmen Journal. "It shaped the man I am today and it continues to hold a special place in my heart."
S-Jax returned to Corvallis on Wednesday to visit with Oregon State's current crop of players and check out the place he used to call home. He noted that things have changed a lot at OSU and told the current Beavers to take pride in that.
"I'm not sure how long it's been since I've been on campus, but I did not know there was a weight room right there," he said of the Sports Performance Center. "These things that you guys have the privilege to have, understand that guys have laid the groundwork for that. And you guys will lay the groundwork for the next generation."
Paul Buker of The Oregonian summarized Steven's speech:
The guy can talk. Jackson was always a class act, but he has grown into a polished public speaker since he left school in 2004 and became one of the NFL's top backs.
Jackson told the OSU players to savor their experience, because it goes by quickly.
He advised the younger players to respect the older players for the work they have already put in.
He talked about following Ken Simonton around when he first came on campus and how much respect he had for Simonton – the veteran running back Jackson would eventually be replacing, and surpassing.
"I was a stalker,'' said Jackson, describing how he shadowed Simonton.
He studied how Simonton carried himself, how he inter-acted with teammates, even how he looked walking around campus and what he wore. When Jackson saw Simonton in a suit, he decided he needed one as well.
"It was from Men's Warehouse,'' said Jackson, "but it was a suit.''
Jackson told the 2011 team not to pay any attention to what the Ducks were doing farther down I-5.
Steven ended his address with a powerful message, as quoted by KEZI:
"Forget what they're doing in Eugene. All that we're focused on is what's going on in Corvallis and what we're building here. And what we're building here is a strong work ethic of blue-collar men, that are going to be successful in any walks of life that they take. I'm proud to call myself an Oregon State Beaver and I hope you do the same."
Oregon State coach Mike Riley and his players were appreciative of Steven's visit and his speech:
"Anytime he comes back or any player, they get to discuss their experiences and how they felt when they were in our shoes. It's always great," senior running back Ryan McCants told the Statesman Journal.
Steven was one of several former OSU players to visit spring practice and Riley said he enjoyed No. 39's message to the OSU student-athletes:
"This really has been a special week to have all these guys coming back," Riley said. "I guess that's one of the benefits of whatever you call the lockout in the NFL. He had a great message to the guys."
Generally, Steven would be preparing to report back to the Rams, get ready for minicamps and also welcome a new group of players to St. Louis after the NFL Draft at the end of this month.
But with the NFL currently situated in a lockout, that is not the case. Steven spoke about the subject during his visit to Oregon State.
"The lockout is something that is going to effect not only the football players, but the world of sports. It's important that both sides get a deal done. But I think it should be fair not only to the owners, but to the players as well."
SJ39 is confident that both sides will work things out before games are sacrificed.
"With all that has gone on, I don't believe it will effect the season. A deal will get brokered. Something will get done. Right now I think there's no rush. It's best to make sure everyone is transparent. That's all we can ask for."
In the meantime, Steven is staying plenty busy, keeping himself in shape while also working his mind.
"I'm doing a little internship at NIKE. I'm working," SJ39 said with a grin. "I'm just taking some time with the freedom that we have right now due to the lockout. I'm making the most of my time. I'm helping [NIKE] out with some design features. We're looking for the future Oregon State [designs] hopefully and working on some future things for the Pro Bowl. Things like that."
S-Jax has also done plenty of public speaking. He received a special waiver from the league, despite the lockout, to appear last month at a team sponsored event at Assumption Catholic Church. There, he spoke to a group of nearly 500 kids. Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about the event:
Jackson was there to salute them for finishing first in the Reading with the Rams contest, sponsored by the team and the Post-Dispatch Newspapers in Education program.
The program included more than 200 schools and 21,000 students, who earned points for reading books, magazines and newspaper articles. Assumption had the highest participation rate, topping 70 percent of the student body.
The students earned the chance to quiz Jackson and focused on his life as a sports star. When asked why he chose football, Jackson responded: "This is such a guy answer: to be able to hit someone. I thought it was better to do it through athletics."
When given the chance to deliver his own message, though, Jackson focused on his faith in God and advice he received from his parents.
"My mom and dad always made sure I had a Plan B," he said. For Jackson, that was majoring in architecture at Oregon State.
Before addressing the entire student body in church, Jackson stopped to congratulate a class of fourth graders. He shared with them the story of his second grade teacher, who determined that Jackson would never read beyond the third-grade level. With help from teachers and his parents, Jackson said, he eventually earned a 3.8 grade-point average in high school."
Steven's message to the students was clear and concise:
"Whenever someone tells you that you can't do something, use that as motivation to overcome it," he said.
HALL OF FAME GAME
With Rams great Marshall Faulk, one of Steven's mentors, set to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, the Rams have been selected to play in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
St. Louis will open the NFL preseason on Sunday, August 7th at Fawcett Stadium in Canton against the Chicago Bears. It's the first of five preseason games for the Rams, as the Belleville News-Democrat reports:
"The Rams' preseason schedule also includes home games against the Indianapolis Colts (Aug. 11-15) and the Tennessee Titans (Aug. 18-22) and road contests against the Kansas City Chiefs (Aug. 25-29) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (Sept. 1-2).
Exact times and dates for the games will be announced at a later date."
ENSHRINED IN VEGAS
Steven will, himself, enter a Hall of Fame this summer, that being the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
Steven is one of five inductees to be enshrined at the ceremony scheduled for June 10th at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Ray Brewer of the Las Vegas Sun wrote of the achievements that garnered Steven the honor:
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson: Jackson rushed for 6,396 yards and 81 touchdowns during his high school career at Eldorado, leading the Sundevils to the Sunrise Regional crown in 2000 and a state runner-up finish. He went on to spend three years at Oregon State, rushing for 3.625 yards and 39 touchdowns in 36 games, while adding six rushing touchdowns and seven on returns. His 4,545 all-purpose yards are second-best in Oregon State history. He capped his career with a five-touchdown performance in the Las Vegas Bowl, then announced he was turning professional in the media interview room at Sam Boyd Stadium. He's been in the NFL seven season with the St. Louis Rams, being named to three Pro Bowl teams and becoming the Rams' all-time leading rusher last year.