For Fred Jackson the spotlight has been shining in a lot of other directions leading up to the 2007 campaign. First-round pick Marshawn Lynch has been a headliner in training camp. Fourth-round pick Dwayne Wright has proven to be more versatile than originally thought. And Anthony Thomas and Shaud Williams have some NFL seasons under their belt.
But on Friday night Jackson was given the biggest on field opportunity in a game situation and he made the most of it leading the Bills in rushing with 49 on eight carries (6.1 avg.) and a touchdown. He also added a pair of receptions for good measure.
"Just going in you have to know that opportunities are going to be limited so you just go out there and make the best of it," said Jackson. "In this offensive system that coach Steve Fairchild runs we've got to be very versatile and it was just something that I wanted to show that I could do."
Head coach Dick Jauron was so taken by Jackson's performance he went out of his way to mention him in the opening comments of his postgame press conference.
"I would be remiss if I didn't mention Freddie Jackson because he did stand out in that football game," Jauron said. "I think anybody that watched it would notice Fred Jackson, the effort he gave and the plays that he made were really good ones."
Jackson recognizes that the Bills offensive backfield is loaded with talented and determined rushers, but he claimed they all set goals as a group.
"We are a very competitive bunch and we love competing with each other," Jackson said. "It was just a night where we set goals to see what we could do."
And Jackson did the most. Entering the game in the third quarter to join rookie quarterback Trent Edwards in the offensive backfield, Jackson got the first drive of the second half off on the right foot as his first four carries went for a total of 18 yards. He also added a 10-yard reception that earned the offense a fresh set of downs. Ultimately however, the drive stalled shortly after the offense entered New Orleans' territory.
On the next possession Jackson was dropped for a four-yard loss on his first carry, but bounced back with a strong run out to the left for a 17-yard touchdown. Jackson broke an attempted shoulder tackle as he came out of the backfield and turned the corner quickly, found the sideline and leaped into the end zone.
And there was no doubt that Jackson was keeping the ball that he carried for his first NFL touchdown.
"I've got a 10-month old son and I'm definitely going to give him that," said Jackson. "It was exciting. The offensive line did a great job tonight and the receivers did a great job blocking downfield and my hat goes off to them."
Jackson wasn't getting too excited about his strong performance in the team's first preseason game. He knows there's a long way to go in an offensive backfield that will likely keep just four backs on the active roster. But right now his head coach is impressed with what he's seeing from the rusher that was on his practice squad last season.
"There are a lot of good things about Fred Jackson and you saw them," said Jauron. "The question was how he would look in an exhibition game. He looked pretty good. I think Fred may just continue to just answer all the questions in the positive as we move on. He's good."