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Photo: Steven Jackson enters his ninth NFL season in 2012.
It’s hard to imagine Steven Jackson looking small next to his football peers. But that was the case, he says, before he hit his growth spurt at age 16—and opposing defenses have struggled to tackle him ever since.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds on his ESPN.com Player Profile, the can’t-miss power running back known for his long dreadlocks has amassed 60 touchdowns and more than 12,000 all-purpose yards in his stellar eight-year career with the St. Louis Rams. Jackson is 907 rushing yards shy of the 10,000-yard mark, a feat that only 26 players have accomplished. It’s no surprise, then, that in 2011 the 29-year-old Las Vegas native was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame (sportshalloffame.net).
Jackson, who we interviewed in June, has made an impact off the field as well. His Steven Jackson Foundation is dedicated to promoting strong educational values among today’s youth. “I just want to help give people a chance,” he says.
Q: Tell us about growing up in Las Vegas.
A: My mom was a blackjack dealer for the Las Vegas Hilton, and my dad was a casino manager for Caesars Palace. They did a good job of keeping me away from the Strip. They told me some of the stories about how you could really throw your life away if you’re not careful. I participated in a lot of after-school programs, not only in sports, but also in leadership programs. [My parents] kept me active.
Q: What high school did you attend?
A: I went to Vo-Tech [Southern Nevada Vocational Technical Center] High School. Vo-Tech is a trade school, so that means they didn’t have a football team. I played for Eldorado High School, the school I would have gone to if I didn’t opt to go to Vo-Tech.
Q: How was the team back then?
A: We were good. We went to the  state championship [in Reno] and lost [29-14] to McQueen.
Q: From an early age, you aspired to play in the NFL. Why was this the right career choice for you?
A: My parents had a lot to do with it. I participated in gymnastics, art classes—they were very good at exposing me to different things, and football just stuck. It was a game that I enjoyed watching, and it allowed me to spend time with my father. I like all elements of it. No one or two people dominate, for the most part, a whole entire game. You need the whole team collectively to be good. Those challenges, along with my own natural ability, really made me gravitate to the game. From the age of seven, I’ve always been a part of the game. Whenever I do decide to retire, it’s going to be a hard transition because I’ve been doing it for so long.
Q: Have you always played running back?
A: Yeah. I didn’t hit my growth spurt until I was 16 years old, so physically I was the smallest guy on the football field. In that day and age, there were a lot of smaller “scat backs”—Thurman Thomas, Marshall Faulk, Barry Sanders—smaller, shiftier guys. When I had my growth spurt, I had to learn how to play behind my pads more than being elusive.
Q: I know you’re eager to win a championship, but what else would you like to get out of the upcoming season?
A: I’d like to be able to pass 10,000 [rushing] yards. It’s something that I will cherish when it happens. But more importantly, I want to hopefully be in my first playoff game [since 2004] and go from there. With [first-year head coach Jeff] Fisher and the staff he’s put together, I think we have the capability to get this team turned around.
Q: Next season [2013-14], you’ll be 30. What do you think about the theory that turning 30 is a curse for NFL running backs?
A: Some people defy the statistics and what people say. If that didn’t happen, you wouldn’t have your Brett Favres or your Ray Lewises of the world. I feel that if I take care of my body I can play for many more years. If you look at statistics to say when my body will break down, most of those statistics are based on the average. I don’t see myself as average.
Q: Tell us about the Steven Jackson Foundation.
A: I founded it in 2004—my rookie year—to combat illiteracy and promote education. Being from Las Vegas, I understand how high the high school dropout rate is and the challenges to recruit good teachers to our area. I want kids to realize that there’s no alternative to education. We want to encourage them that they can live out their dreams, and that they’re attainable. You have to sacrifice and really focus on your education and never give up on it. You never get too old to learn. The more I promote this, the more I feel that it’s a part of me.
Q: There’s been talk of a major professional sports team coming to Las Vegas. What are your thoughts, and what sport do you think would be the best fit?
A: I support that 100 percent. Any professional sports team that comes to Las Vegas, I’ll be there at center court, center field—I think it would be good for our economy and our city. It’s something to care about outside of boxing and UFC, and all of us could come together and be collectively proud of something. I think basketball has the best chance, and then from there maybe baseball. Those two I could see coming in right away and having a huge impact on our city. Either way it goes, I think the city will embrace it and support it.
Q: What are some of your favorite Nevada getaways outside your hometown of Las Vegas?
A: Mount Charleston, Red Rock [Canyon National Conservation Area], Lake Las Vegas, Valley of Fire [State Park], Lake Mead, and Hoover Dam. These are all in close proximity to Las Vegas, and people don’t really realize it. We have a beautiful city and a beautiful state that can offer a lot to people outside of the possibility of hitting a jackpot.
STEVEN JACKSON’S CAREER STATS
ELDORADO HIGH SCHOOL (Las Vegas)
• 6,396 rushing yards
• 81 touchdowns
OREGON STATE (2001-03)
• 3,625 rushing yards
• 4,545 all-purpose yards
• 39 touchdowns
ST. LOUIS RAMS (2004-present)
• 9,093 rushing yards
• 3,003 receiving yards
• 60 touchdowns (52 rushing)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Official Website of Steven Jackson
Following is a list of active NFL players who attended high school in Nevada.
• Josh Barrett, S, New England Patriots (Reno HS)
• Chris Carr, S, Minnesota Vikings (McQueen HS)
• Harvey Dahl, G, St. Louis Rams (Fallon HS)
• Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams (Eldorado HS)
• Brandon Marshall, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars (Cimarron-Memorial HS)
• Josh Mauga, LB, N.Y. Jets (Fallon HS)
• Stevenson Sylvester, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Valley HS)