ST. LOUIS—The St. Louis Rams would finish out the 2009-10 NFL season with a 1-15 record. Every game was looking forward to mostly losses. Victories were sometimes a distance memory, or just a dream. But for Steven Jackson, it didn’t matter. His team was building, and it was his job to lead the team even during the tough times.

The last two seasons for the Rams have been, well, hectic. Their two legendary receivers leave, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Their hopeful quarterback now keeps getting injured, Marc Bulger. And there is just no defensive support either expect for guys like O.J. Atogwe and James Laurinatis.

But now the Rams could go back to shape and become a top-team in just a matter of a few short years. They got a future-star quarterback in number-one overall pick, Sam Bradford, who performed very well in the pre-season. There is also the young and upcoming receivers like Laurent Robinson and Danny Amendola. There is also a hopeful star defensive end in Chris Long.

But St. Louis really feeds on Steven Jackson. With a bad offensive line last year, possibly one of the worst or the worst in the league (even with Jason Smith, who struggled that season), Jackson churned for 1,416 rushing yards with four touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry average. With many teams moving to the two-back combo, Jackson is the only one proving that he can do all by himself. The Rams, and Jackson, show they can just have one running back to get all the rushing yards. One powerhouse back.

It all started out in the 2005-06 season. I first realized No. 39 when the Indianapolis Colts faced them at home in the RCA Dome. The Rams started off strong, and went for a go-ahead 14-0 lead. Jackson did great in that game and was learning from one of the greats, Marshall Faulk. Jackson would finish that season with 673 yards with four touchdowns, along with five yards per carry.

The next year, Jackson would carry the load and would rush for 1,046 yards with eight touchdowns along with a 4.1 yards per carry average in just 15 games. In 2006, Jackson was at the top of league with 1,528 yards with 13 touchdowns along with a 4.4 yards per carry average.

In 2007, Jackson would only play twelve games but would bring in 1,002 yards, five touchdowns, and 4.2 yards per carry. Jackson would only play twelve games again in 2008, rushing for 1,042 yards with seven touchdowns and 4.1 yards per carry. Jackson would keep putting on those numbers.

It seemed impossible for Jackson to put up these numbers for such an awful team. It surprised me of how much production he brought to the table for St. Louis despite a bad O-Line. But the Rams’ O-Line is finally improving with two great draft picks in the last two NFL Drafts with Jason Smith and Roger Saffold. Both can help open more holes and more yards for Jackson.

Jackson knows what is coming for him this season. He knows he is still the leader and he has a new team with him. But it all goes to him when it comes to center of attention, despite having Sam Bradford. Jackson has proven he is a captain of this squad and is the true leader of this offense. And what really surprises me is that he has never gotten the true recognition he deserves.

If anybody would realize this, but if he were to ever be on a team that has the offensive line Chris Johnson, Cedric Benson, or anybody else has, he would gain a lot more yards. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could 2,000 yards on the Tennessee Titans. He would be way past the record books with an offensive line like the New York Jets. But it doesn’t matter to him, because the Rams are his choice.

Entering his seventh year in the league, Jackson has 6,707 yards and 41 touchdowns under his belt. He will be turning 28 years old soon, and once the 30-year-old mark hits or one or two years after that, we know we could see the last of Jackson. After all, he is the one-man show back and the one-man player.

If anybody were actually to pay attention to Jackson, they would give him the Offensive Player of the Year award or the Most Valuable Player award. But they don’t, because of the Rams’ performance overall. But that’s the thing: those awards are based on individual player performances, not team’s. And if Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson were to be on the Rams, they probably won’t reach the success of what Jackson had with them.

If I were to vote for MVP or Offensive Player of the Year, you can bet that Jackson would be counted in. Jackson continues to be the striving inspiration for this ailing team. Jackson is the difference. And he will continue to keep helping the Rams no matter what happens. Because this is his team, and he doesn’t plan on leaving. St. Louis is very optimistic for this season.

“I’m fully prepared to go in there and play however long as the ones are going to be out there,” Jackson told the Telegraph, who had nine carries for 42 yards in two preseason games. Without Jackson, the Rams lost the preseason opener to the Minnesota Vikings. In the two series Jackson has played the Rams scored touchdowns in wins over Cleveland and the Patriots.

With Marc Bulger gone, many Rams’ fans don’t like him. But Jackson continues to support his former and present teammates. And that’s another good thing about No. 39. He is a good person, on and off the field. He never brags or anything. He is quiet and lets his game do the talking. He has a tremendously good sportsmanship.

“You really can’t play this game based on how people perceive you or how they’re going to receive you,” Jackson said before the Rams faced the Baltimore Ravens in a pre-season game. “You have to go out there and just do your job. Everyone at some point becomes a goat, I guess, so it’s unfortunate that he took a lot of blame that I don’t think was fair.”

Jackson looks to do what he keeps on doing in 2010. Everything is in place. People should give him the credit. Not only just for his sportsmanship, production, and if you look at the situation he is in. But there is one thing that makes him unique: he will never quit. It may sound normal for people not quitting, but trust me, no. Look at what happened to Brandon Marshall. If any running back were in the situation of Jackson, they would want to quit. They would either want to go into free agency or request a trade. Not Steven Jackson.

When it all goes down, he will continue to support his team. Even through the tough times.

Win or lose, he won’t quit and won’t back down.

He is a true leader.


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