Buffalo is where Fred Jackson’s career started. On Wednesday, it was where his 10 year career came to an end as the running back signed a one day contract with the Bills and officially retired from the NFL.
“I’ve always made it known that this is what I wanted to do, retire as a Buffalo Bill,” Jackson said inside the Bills Field House. “It was an easy decision to do.”
The Texas native’s path to the league wasn’t easy. After wrapping up his college career at Coe College in Iowa, Jackson played two years in the Indoor Football League with the Sioux City Bandits, before suiting up for one year with the Reign Fire in NFL Europe. Then, the Bills took a chance on the running back.
“It’s a story that’s like nobody else’s. It’s something I share with students when I visit schools,” Jackson said. “Just because you don’t get drafted, don’t give up. To last for 10 years, it’s something I’m proud of and I’ll always be proud of. It will always be a great deal to me.”
But, every journey has its bumps in the road. Jackson was a surprise cut by the Bills during training camp in 2015. He signed a one-year contract and played the season out along side former Bills teammate Marshawn Lynch in Seattle.
“It’s a business, you have to understand that,” Jackson said on Wednesday. “At the time it happens, you’re going to be upset about it. If you’re not upset about it, something is wrong with you. When you want to compete at a high level and you’re not able to do so, it should strike a nerve for you. I had to make the best business decision for me and that was in Seattle. This organization gave me my change and it meant the world to be able to come back and do this.”
Despite going unsigned the year after, Jackson stayed in shape and participated in the Spring League in the hopes of continuing his career.
“The latest team I talked to was the Vikings after I did the Spring League and then got a call from them two days later,’ Jackson said. “After doing that for two years, you don’t want to do that anymore. I realize I’m 37 and that’s ancient for a running back and it was just time to do it.”
Jackson ranks third on the Bills’ all-time rushing list with 5,646 career yards, behind Thurman Thomas and OJ Simpson. In 2009 he became the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 rushing and 1,000 kickoff yards in a season.
While he says he has a lot of memories from his 106 career games in a Bills uniform, the fans are what stand out most.
“Whenever you have the opportunity to tell fans how much it means to you, for them to support you the way they do, that’s something as any player, that’s something you want,” he said. “That’s why we play the game. Granted, we love to compete and play against the best in the world. But, when a fan base embraces you, that’s what it all about.”
He’s a legend among fans and maybe one day he’ll be immortalized as one of the all-time greats on the Bills Wall of Fame inside New Era Field.
“I can just hope. It’s not up to me,” Jackson said. “But I would love to be up there.”