By now, you probably still don’t know Fred Jackson’s story but after two weeks into the 2009 NFL season, nobody is asking, “Fred Who?”. And chance are, even when Marshawn Lynch returns in a few weeks from suspension, Jackson won’t be fading into the background anytime soon.
With Lynch starting out the season suspended and free agent running back Dominic Rhodes released late in the summer, that left Jackson as the starting running back and second-year back Xavier Omon the backup. With Omon having just two carries under his belt, that meant the reigns were Jacksons’s. This was his chance to not only produce, but also prove that he could be a real weapon in Buffalo’s offense.
We’ve all heard of NFL success stories in recent years. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner went from stocking shelves in a grocery store to Super Bowl champion. Former New Orleans Saints kick returner Michael Lewis drove a beer truck before landing in the NFL, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback was a virtual unknown from Northern Iowa. But now it’s Jackson that’s serving a model for everyone out there that even though he took the unconventional route to the NFL, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
His story begins in Arlington, Texas where Jackson played football in high school. Next, it was on to Coe College, a Division III school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His professional career started in Sioux City, Iowa where Jackson played for the Sioux City Bandits in the National Indoor Football League and the United Indoor Football League in 2004 and 2005, making $200 dollars a week. Jackson’ s travels continued overseas in Germany where he played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europa. It wasn’t until 2007 that Jackson landed on the Bills practice squad.
If you remember, it was Jackson who was upset over his contract situation in April and made himself scarce from conditioning workouts. His 37 catches a year ago were fourth among all Bills receivers, and Jackson has filled in admirably over the past few years. In last season’s finale against New England, Jackson rushed for 137 yards on 27 carries and in 2007 he amassed 151 rushing and receiving yards in a victory over Washington.
But it would be hard to imagine where the Bills would be without Jackson now. He’s been asked to shoulder the brunt of the running load and he’s been a revelation going from a supporting role to a lead role.
Through two weeks of the NFL season, Jackson has rushed for 220 yards on 43 carries. Only the Tennessee’s Chris Johnson has rushed for more yards and Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson has carried the ball more time.
Jackson also leads all Buffalo receivers in both receptions (11) and yards (108. What’s even more impressive about Jackson’s remarkable first two weeks is the fact that he’s running behind a young, inexperienced offensive line that’s still very much a work in progress that features a new starting left tackle, a new center and two rookies. After two games, there’s no debating who Buffalo’s MVP is right now.