As far as Rams rushers go, Steven Jackson now stands alone.
On a three-yard run off right guard in the second quarter yesterday, Steven pushed his career rushing total to 7,248 yards, three more than Hall-of-Fame running back Eric Dickerson, to become the All-Time leading rusher in St. Louis Rams history.
Steven on his way into the record books (Getty Images).
SJ39 would add 76 more yards on the ground to finish with 110 yards on 22 carries, but his effort on a record-breaking day was squandered in an 18-17 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa on Sunday.
"It's bittersweet," No. 39 told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's something that I've worked really hard for, for a long time. So, to be able to achieve it, it means a lot. I just really wish we were able to cap it off with a win. It's kind of hard to be celebrating something about individual success when it's a team sport."
But his teammates were happy to laud him, as fullback Mike Karney did to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"I'm happy for Steven. But I know Steven. He'll get back to work — we'll all get back to work — and try to get a win next week," Karney said. "He's running as well as I've seen him. I think he's getting into a groove."
To watch Steven’s record run, click here.
For Steven, eclipsing the Rams rushing record has been a goal he set from the day he was drafted in 2004. The road he took to get there was by no means easy and his accomplishment is a study in perseverance.
The Rams have compiled a 31-72 record in No. 39’s six-plus years in St. Louis, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him run.
"I've just always prided myself on looking long-term," Steven told the Post-Dispatch. "I knew coming into this organization that to ever be remembered, I had to be a special person and not just a special football player. Because I was replacing a living legend (Marshall Faulk). And in the numbers I wanted to break — Eric Dickerson — he's another legend.
"So I've always had a chance to look at the big picture, and not the day-to-day things that I was going through. It was very tough times. I learned a lot about myself. I found out that I was a stronger individual than I was giving myself credit for. I wouldn't have known that if I didn't go through these trials."
Steven’s newest quarterback, a rookie in the league, can still appreciate what his teammate has accomplished.
"It says a lot about him, what he's been able to accomplish," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He's the leader on this football team, he's a huge part of our offense, and for him to become the career rushing leader, I think it's awesome."
His time in the league has taught Steven Jackson a lot of things and one of them is to be able to balance short-term goals and long-term aspirations.
While his record will inevitably raise questions about his place in history and what is next (he recently cracked the Top 50 on the NFL’s all-time list) SJ39 is pacing himself.
"First things first, establishing yourself within the organization," he told the Belleville News-Democrat. "I've had quite a task. I've had two Hall of Famers to go after, and being able to eclipse them says a lot about the body of work I've put in, but I'm satisfied with it."
That same mentality extends to the way Steven looks at the current Rams team. Though they’ve already won as many games as they did in 2008 and 2009 combined, S-Jax doesn’t want to get wrapped up in thinking they’ve turned a corner, as he told the Post-Dispatch:
"When I say this, I say this with all sincerity," Jackson said. "I hope that there is light there, but I don't want to get my hopes up, because I don't want to be heartbroken. I choose to go about it as just going to work day-to-day and hoping, trusting that it will turn around.
"I'm just going to go back to the blue-collar mentality I've had my whole career. And hopefully setting the example for the other guys that we can work our way out of this. I want to get excited about where we're going. But we've just been through so much here, I don't want to get my heart broken."
WILL TO WIN
Sunday’s loss was another example of why S-Jax finds it necessary to think that way.
"It means a lot,'' Jackson said of the record during a postgame radio interview on WXOS-FM 101.1. "We talked about it this week. I would have loved to have it with a win. It's kind of hard to just enjoy it right now. It was a lot of work that went into becoming the franchise's leading rusher. I just want a win, man."
Steven’s win-first attitude, even after accomplishing something that he’d been thinking about since the first day he donned a Rams uniform, is the pinnacle of what it means to him to be a leader. Having endured such hardship in his six years, personal attainment has become a secondary goal.
"He's a man now. He's mature. He's a leader,'' said Ron Bartell, who has played in St. Louis with SJ39 for six of his seven seasons. "We look to him for inspiration. He is the epitome of what being a professional is all about. To see him on the top of the rushing list for the Rams -- you've got Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk -- and being able to pass guys like that is a great accomplishment. I just enjoy playing with him.''
Steven’s Sunday leadership didn’t go unnoticed. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch picked up on it in SJ39’s postgame tweets.
Congrats to Jackson for becoming the Rams' all-time rushing leader. He has the most career rushing yards by a Ram. More than Eric Dickerson, more than Marshall Faulk, more than Lawrence McCutcheon, more than June Henley. When the team's flight arrived back in St. Louis, Jackson tweeted this message from his seat: "Just made it back to STL. God be the glory. I will lead this team and set an example."
He's an outstanding leader. The Rams, to this point, have not been able to convert his talent into wins. Not enough of them, anyway. Jackson is becoming the Floyd Little of his era. Earlier Jackson had tweeted this: "This one jurt. I'm sick. Trying to smile and I can't. I just want to WIN." And that's why I see a lot of Floyd Little in SJ39.
The Rams’ downfall on Sunday may have come down to the fact that, with just two catches for 35 yards, S-Jax was also St. Louis' leading receiver.
While Steven was grinding out his third straight 100-yard rushing day and the 26th of his career, the Rams’ passing game could never get untracked. Bradford completed just 13 passes for 126 yards. Though he threw for two touchdowns, both were from inside the five and the drives were setup by either Steven’s running, a shortened field or both.
The Rams running game punished Tampa Bay in the first half as No. 39 totaled 74 yards in the half, leading to a 17-6 halftime edge for St. Louis.
"Tampa Bay challenged us from the get-go, eight men in the box," Jackson said. "And for us to be able to move the ball, especially in that first half, like we did, I'm very proud of that effort that we put in."
But once the Buccaneers adjusted to St. Louis’ lack of a passing attack, throwing another man in the box against Steven, the Rams struggled. They were held scoreless for the second half and Bradford threw for only 56 yards.
"I think we continue to self-inflict wounds on ourselves with penalties, and just being inconsistent and not being able to put any drives together,'' Steven told the Belleville News-Democrat. "We especially let the third quarter get away from us. They controlled the quarter, controlled the ball and wore our defense down. Just my first thoughts thinking back on the game, that's what I think happened.''
The Rams return home this week to take on the Carolina Panthers (1-5).
The Panthers enter the dome fresh off their first win of the season on Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff for the Sunday tilt is scheduled for 12 p.m. CST and the game can be seen on FOX.
Jackson races toward a record (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 22, 2010)
Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 25, 2010)
Steven Jackson eager to topple record (Belleville News-Democrat, October 22, 2010)
Jackson becomes Rams’ all-time leading rusher, but can’t savor the moment (Belleville News-Democrat, October 25, 2010)
Jackson sets rushing mark, but say it’s bittersweet (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 25, 2010)
Game Info: Rams at Buccaneers (NFL.com, October 24, 2010)