Steven Jackson went through his first mini camp under new coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this week and came away excited about what's ahead for the Rams.
"He's coached some unbelievable running backs," SJ told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Guys have had a lot of success in this offense under his leadership. So I'm looking forward to the challenge. And hopefully over the next few years while we're together I can put my name up there with the names of some of the other guys that have played for him."
The 2012 season will be Steven's ninth in the NFL, but the 28-year-old notes there's still plenty of tread on his tires. He also believes that he's learned enough through his experience in the league to be more successful now than he ever could have been as a raw 21-year-old athlete:
"My first few years in football professionally, I leaned heavily on just my talent itself," Jackson said. "Now I'm at the point where my physicality has not fallen off, and my mental (game) has really taken off by leaps and bounds in understanding the game of football. I feel like I'm right there. I feel like I'm in my prime. And I'm excited about what I can do in this offense."
If recent history is any indication, the sky is truly the limit. S-Jax finished ninth in the league in rushing last year, his seventh straight season rushing for over 1,000 yards. Only six other players in the history of the league have accomplished that feat. No. 39 models himself after members of that elite class, many of whom played productively well into their 30's.
"That is a new thing for me to target," he told the Belleville News-Democrat. "Nearing the age of 29, you do hear the echoes and the whispers. Very few people have had the success being over 30, but I think about Emmitt Smith, who played a long time. Marcus Allen. Even Thomas Jones, who had a 1,400-yard season over the age of 30.
"I just have to take care of myself like I have, and continue to believe in myself. When people fall off is when they let the outside interfere with their mentality and their confidence."
Fisher believes in Steven too. He's watched film on No. 39 before and since taking the Rams job. During those film sessions, Fisher noticed one thing in particular that speaks to S-Jax's longevity.
''I've said this before, when a big back gets old you look for one thing: Is he getting hit or is he getting tackled? Steven's still getting tackled, he's not getting hit, so he's got a lot left,'' Fisher told the Associated Press.
As for his take on the new coach, Steven had nothing but praise.
"Unbelievable," he said. "I had a chance to meet with him a week after his initial introduction to the team. Everything went smoothly and everything so far has gone smoothly. He's put together an unbelievable coaching staff. That'll help him execute what he wants to do."
With mini camp in the books, the next step for the Rams and other teams around the NFL is the NFL Draft, beginning next Thursday night in New York City.
Steven was in New York last week and filmed a segment for Bleacher Report's NFL Draft 365:
After a trade with the Washington Redskins, the Rams have eight picks in the draft, including No. 6 overall. With plenty of needs and plenty of potential stars on the board, St. Louis will have a tough decision to make. But Steven is a fan of one player that could be available and who he believes would instantly upgrade the St. Louis offense.
"I believe [Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin] Blackmon is an unbelievable talent," Jackson said. "We've all talked about Sam [Bradford] and what he can do with the tools he has. For us to fully see what he's capable of doing and seeing him blossom you have to definitely get him weapons for the outside."
But no matter which player the Rams choose, No. 39 promises to help his new teammate adjust, as long as he's willing to listen.
"The Rams are going to do what's best for the Rams, I understand that, it's a business," Jackson said. "All I can do is try to be there for the young guy and if he's receptive I'll help him."
His physical running style makes Steven stand out among his peers. But what Steven is perhaps known best for lies under his helmet: his flowing dreadlocks.
SJ's signature dreads are a staple of his style on and off the field, so while many players about to enter the NFL via the draft weigh whether to snip their dreads, Steven says his will remain in the league as long as he does.
"Originally, I thought I should cut my hair when I got married or had kids, but I have a better idea," he told ESPN.com. "I'm going to cut it when I retire. I'm going to use that as a transition to my next life: mogul."
S-Jax originally grew out his dreads during his senior year in high school, as a tribute to his family and his roots. He says each member of his family is represented by a lock of hair. For as long as he plays in the NFL he wants those dreads as a reminder of where he came from and why is the man he has become.
Steven is driven every day by where he came from and through his Steven Jackson Foundation, No. 39 is also doing what he can to give back to those roots.
"I came from a great home with two parents, but the majority of young people there come from struggles," Jackson said. "I'm trying to show that education can help you get out of that environment and do something positive with your life."
To read more about Steven and what he is doing to help promote education in his native Las Vegas, click here.