Fred Jackson: Thank you Buffalo

Posted Apr 18, 2018

On Wednesday, Bills former running back Fred Jackson will put a bow on his impressive 10-year NFL career, by signing a one-day contract as a Buffalo Bill. In his own words, Jackson shares his thoughts on what his time in Buffalo meant to him.

To say Fred Jackson’s NFL career was an unlikely one would be one of the greater understatements around. What was never understated was the effort he put into every training session, team practice or game in which he participated. On Wednesday, Jackson will put a bow on his impressive 10-year NFL career, by signing a one-day contract as a Buffalo Bill.

He took the time to put together his thoughts on his time in Buffalo, what inspired him, what it all meant to him and what’s next. Fred Jackson in his own words.

I think I pretty much made it known in recent months that my desire was to retire as a Buffalo Bill, but as was typically the case during my career, the fans had a hand in convincing me to end my NFL career as a Bill. You told me to come back and do a one-day contract as a Bills player so to be able to do that and show you it meant the same to me as it does to you is a blessing.

There were times over the last couple of years where I held out hope for that phone call for another chance in the NFL, but being 37-years old has a lot to do with me being at peace with my NFL career. The older you get the more you realize that you can’t do some of the stuff you’d have to do to play at a high level in the NFL. The older you get the more that realization starts to set in.

Being able to see my kids do as much stuff I’ve been able to watch them do the last couple of years with my time freed up has also helped me to validate this decision and move on to this next stage in life. Just watching them grow up in all their sports, it’s something I get a chance to do now and I look forward to doing it more often.

Looking back on my 10 seasons in the NFL, I’d have to say if someone told me back in 2005 that I’d get 10 years in the league, it would have far exceeded my expectations then.

Coming in at age 26 being the first time I played in an NFL game, I thought I’d only be around one or two seasons, but the more I played, the more confident I got in my playing abilities. Being able to go out and compete at a high level, I wanted to stick around as long as possible. To be able to get 10 years out of this career makes me truly blessed, and I’m proud to say I played in the NFL for 10 years.

For the nine years I spent in Buffalo there’s a combination of specific moments and a general feeling I have about my time with the Bills. Obviously, there are things that just jump out whenever I think about my time in Buffalo. One is walking out of the tunnel the first time for a regular season game.

Or even walking off the field with my son and hearing the ‘Fred-dy’ chants as I’m walking up the tunnel. Those are things you don’t get to do for the rest of your life, so they come to mind quickly.

To sum it all up though, Buffalo represents my football career, and all the things that I was able to do and accomplish. Every time I sit down and think about it, having that opportunity to play in Buffalo and pour my heart out for the city and try as hard as I could to win football games was special to me.

I think that’s why I understood the relationship I had with Bills fans. I tried to leave everything I had on the field when I competed. I think that showed when I played.

So when I’d be walking in the mall or stopping to get gas at a gas station, the fans would tell me they loved the way I played the game. That only motivated me to keep doing it.

I think that was something that Buffalonians could relate to, somebody who worked hard and gave everything they could to their job. Buffalo is a hard-working town and you respected me for working hard, so I wanted to show all of you that same respect by playing hard.

In the time I’ve been away from the daily grind of the game, the things I miss most are no different from a lot of other players. You always love to compete against the best of the best, and in the NFL everybody is going to be at the top of the game. So I definitely miss that.

But the number one thing that guys always say when they hang them up is they’ll miss the locker room. Sitting in there and talking to guys about stuff other than football. Whether it’s family, weekend plans or cracking jokes. You definitely miss that and some of those memories are what I find I treasured most. Just sitting around and talking with teammates.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I had to work with so many different coaches and I picked up so many words of wisdom from them. Some of them I’ve tried to live by.

One of my favorites that I heard all the time, that I loved was, empty your tank. Don’t hold anything back. Just put all of yourself into it and live with the results. I think that’s one thing that we can all live by.

One other thing I’ll always take with me from football is you meet a lot of different people and nobody is the same. It’s easy to make judgments on people that you don’t know, but until you get to sit down with that person and visit with them and understand what makes them tick, you shouldn’t pass judgments.

I think that’s something I want to teach my kids. Being able to play football for 10 years and meet so many different people, that’s something I take with me.

The number one thing I want to tell fans is thank you. Their support was something that always motivated me to leave it all on the field. Talking to fans out in public and them telling me what they liked about my game, they motivated me to do what I did on the football field. So a big thank you to everyone that supported me.

I remember the first time I pulled up to the stadium on a game day and there was a fan wearing my jersey and it wasn’t a family member. I appreciated stuff like that.

I was a kid who went to a Division III school and had to work twice as hard to get in the NFL. So to see something like that was inspiring.

I remember talking to Stevie Johnson at one point, and I was undrafted and he was a seventh-round pick. I told him I saw both of our jerseys on a rack at a sporting goods store next to each other. It was amazing for me to see that, and it’s those little things that I always appreciated coming from where I did.

For those who have similar dreams and aspirations like I did, and might not be coming from an advantageous position to fulfill those dreams, don’t give up on yourself.

It might take a little bit longer than you want it to, but it’s worth it. It’s worth every bit of the struggle that you go through to get there. You just have to put the effort in and surround yourself with the right people who are going to keep you motivated to chase your dream.

Once you get there, you will definitely appreciate everything about it. I loved everything about playing in the National Football League.

When it comes to the next chapter for me, I’d like to be doing something with Buffalo and the organization in some way, somehow. I want to maintain my roots there and be around the Bills organization as much as possible. Be around all the Buffalo fans, and we’ll see what happens.

Right now, I’ve got kids who are playing sports and I want to watch them do that. I want to watch my son chase his dream to play in the NFL. I want to do everything I can to help him achieve that. Watch my girls play soccer, basketball, run track. It’s time for me to pour everything I did into football into them so they can achieve their goals.

But thank you Buffalo for everything you did for me. It made me who I was as a football player and who I am today.