Jackson spent eight seasons with the Bills following two seasons with the Sioux City Bandits of the Indoor Football League and a season with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe. His story of perseverance and unlikely success is the sort of classic feel-good story that fills many sports fans’ DVD collections. Many players have a cup of coffee with an NFL team here or there, but Jackson became a staple of the Bills for nearly a decade.
While the team attempted to find more production from more “premiere talent” like Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller early in Jackson’s tenure, he turned out to be the mainstay at the position. Jackson started off the 2011 season with almost 1000 rushing yards in only ten games and as an early dark horse candidate for league MVP before a season-ending broken leg cut his season short.
Fred Jackson’s style, both on and off the field, was what has endeared him to fans the most. Often considered a “safe” jersey purchase for his high character and embodiment of the stereotypical blue-collar ethic, Jackson gave fans what they wanted in a leader of their team. He also could do almost anything that was asked of him on the field; blocking, screen plays, inside runs, outside runs, split out receiving, kick returning and even throwing touchdowns were all ways that Jackson contributed to the team during his tenure with the Bills. He finished his career with Buffalo third all-time in games played, attempts, and rushing yards.
A quote from the late Buffalo sports writer Larry Felser forever changed my opinion on places like the Pro Football Hall of Fame and by extension the Bills Wall of Fame when, speaking about the Hall in Canton, he noted, “Its the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Greatness.”
Was Fred Jackson “great enough” to be on the Bills’ Wall of Fame? Maybe we shouldn’t be asking ourselves that question. Maybe, rather, the question should be was Jackson’s fame of the right sort to put him on the Wall of Fame? I say, emphatically, yes.