St. Louis Rams halfback Steven Jackson has never enjoyed a winning season since he was drafted in 2004 -- the best the Rams have done is two 8-8 seasons in Jackson's time there, and they've won a grand total of six games in the last three years. Amid severe personnel and coaching turnover in the last few seasons, Jackson has been the team's one constant -- he's never rushed for under 1,000 yards in a full season, even when he was sharing time with Marshall Faulk(notes) early on and running behind patchwork lines and working with aging or inept quarterbacks more recently.
But for all his team's troubles, you'll never see Jackson give anything less than full effort. In St. Louis' 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans today, Jackson rushed for 82 yards on 20 carries in the face of a defense focused almost completely on him. Because when your quarterback is the legendary Keith Null(notes), opposing defenses can commit eight to the box without question. Jackson can counter all that attention because he still has every bit of the speed and strength that has made him one of the NFL's best at his position.
Jackson also has an ability to transcend his surroundings and play above the efforts of those around him. His team is 1-13 and he's got a back injury that has prevented him from practicing for the past month. Friends and family want him to stop and recuperate for next season, but Jackson is having none of it.
"I love football, I love this team ... "(Shutting it down) has been whispered in my ear, and that's from people on my side looking out for what's best for my future, but I love to play. I only have two more games to play this season. I'm just going to gut it out.''
Against the Texans, he also exchanged a little smack talk with safety Bernard Pollard(notes) and then got into a fight with Pollard that left Jackson with a fat lip. It didn't stop him from giving his all. Nothing does.
"I think he instills it in everybody else," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told Steve Korte of the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat. "He's fiery, and you have to love that in this league. He gives us that all the time. He's never changed that way, and I hope he never does.''
It's easy, and even understandable, for players on horrible teams to gear it down as the season comes to a close. But the guys who don't understand anything but all-out effort under any circumstances should be recognized and appreciated, and that's exactly what Steven Jackson is.