brown polo shoes Why Buffalo loves Fred Jackson
The moment was classic Fred Jackson.
In overtime last Sunday, the oldest player on the Buffalo Bills roster the oldest running back in the NFL by 10 months took a handoff, burst through the line untouched, cut up the left sideline and dashed deep into Chicago Bears territory.
With the ball locked inside his left elbow, he used his right paw to jam Bears safety Chris Conte in the chest. Jackson, 33 and eight years his senior, shoved Conte back. Jackson popped him again and ducked underneath Conte’s last, helpless swipe.
Conte toppled onto his rump at the 4 yard line. Bears linebacker Jonathan Bostic prevented the touchdown, tackling Jackson at the 1.
But the game was virtually over. Jackson’s relentless run was the reason.
And it was yet another reminder why Western New York loves Jackson like few other players over the past 20 years.
“It felt like Freddy stiff armed Chris Conte in overtime last week with the combined strength of every Bills fan,” Bills fan Chris Burns wrote on Twitter.
Jackson “looked like he was stiff arming the last 14 years of no playoffs,” another fan, Greg Westlake, tweeted.
Jackson’s appeal isn’t merely that he plays with the subtlety of a bone saw.
The backstory of Jackson’s career is phenomenal. He’s a top shelf player. He has been a compass for the roster. He’s charming. He does marvelous work in the community.
While outsiders routinely talk about what Buffalo isn’t good at, what it can’t do and why it won’t succeed, Jackson personifies a region’s rebuttal.
“He symbolizes the hope that Buffalo fans have in their teams,” Buffalo Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta said.
Kaleta, raised in Angola, grew up a Bills fan and has become friends with Jackson.
“We’re looked down upon sometimes,” Kaleta said. “People who aren’t from here easily forget about our teams.
“The people who live here are so passionate about our Sabres and Bills, and to see someone you can root for who has overcome so much in his career inspires fans and people like me with the way he works and carries himself.”
Any Bills fan worth his Zubaz knows Jackson’s journey from Arlington, Texas, to the NFL.
He was a backup for Lamar High, didn’t even start as a senior. No university offered him a football scholarship. He played for Division III Coe College, didn’t get invited to the NFL scouting combine, didn’t get drafted. He couldn’t latch on with an Arena Football League club.
Jackson played in something called the United Indoor Football League for $200 a week. The Sioux City Bandits provided hotel and food vouchers, too.
When fellow Coe College alum Marv Levy became Bills general manager in 2006, he offered Jackson a tryout. The Bills signed Jackson to their practice squad, dispatched him to NFL Europa and then finally added him to their active roster in 2007.
Two seasons later, Jackson rushed for over 1,000 yards in the NFL.
“If you want him to do something, tell him he can’t,” Jackson’s agent, Ron Raccuia said. “That’s the way he plays football.”
Raccuia knows what our region is about. He’s president of Buffalo apparel company ADPRO Sports and represents former Bills players Brian Moorman, Terrence McGee, Coy Wire and Jon Corto.
“Fred plays the game I think the way every fan would like to play the game,” Raccuia said. “He leaves it all out there.
“He’s passionate about it. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, which is the quintessential Buffalo mentality, us against the world, always the underdog.
“He finds a way to play with that edge. He does things you don’t think he’s capable of doing because he has that passion.”
Simply being a hard charging player isn’t enough to connect with fans the way Jackson has.
Although Travis Henry played on a broken leg, Marshawn Lynch ran like a bulldozer and Willis McGahee was a star, all three running backs were viewed as knuckleheads for various off field missteps.
Jairus Byrd, a three time Pro Bowl safety, was polarizing for his contract demands. Left guard Andy Levitre started every game he played, but many fans shrugged when he departed last year.