by Mario Granata
When sitting down to write this article, I reflect back on a previous article on Hashtag Sports that explored the “business” side of the NFL as well as the previous tenure of its new OC Greg Roman and wondered if Fred would fit in the offense. It was an article that I didn’t want to write, but trying to be as objective as possible, I wanted to prepare for the worst (even if I thought there was a chance of it happening). Well today the Buffalo Bills released Fred Jackson and his 8-year tenure with the Bills has come to an unceremonious end. What does this really mean for the Bills?
Being a former Division III football player myself, I was instantly linked to Fred Jackson and a fan of everything he did. He was a tough nosed player, willing to do all the little things on the field to ensure the success of the team. Now, while the Bills didn’t enjoy much success during his time in Buffalo, he was a stabilizing force on the offense, and that transferred off the field. He was a grinder, earning tough yards and with every inch that he struggled for on the field, he grew closer and closer to the fans of Buffalo. We here in the 716 are known for our toughness, braving our way through the winter, not getting much recognition and doing what we need to succeed. Fred wasn’t the fastest. He wasn’t the biggest. But the “way” he played the game was what I will remember most. He did the little things that his position is asked in the NFL and never mailed in a play.
Being considered the best blocking back in the NFL may not seem like a glorious title, but you can ask any quarterback who has played the game, and they will feel more comfortable with #22 picking up a screaming blitz coming at their face. Fred did his job, and never complained, never moaned, never exhibited anything other than pure class. They say that football doesn’t build character, it reveals it, and the character that Fred Jackson revealed to all of us is something that should be cherished, admired and something that we all should aspire to.
Some Bills’ fans will have the hurt that comes with a player that is so popular for their team being released while others will take a step back and realize that this is a business and in business some decisions that are best for the whole might not be viewed as such. Fred Jackson is up there in age, but his heart is still as young as when he first stepped into the NFL at the tender age of 26. He reminded all of us to stay young, believe in yourself when others won’t, and to run down your dreams no matter how many people are in your way.
Fred, if this article happens to cross your eyes, I want to say a personal and heartfelt thank you for all that you represented, not just to the Bills and the community, but also to your family. When you came into a game, I felt a sense of security as a fan. I know that will sound silly, but the way that you carried yourself on and off the field is something that current and future players and fans should aspire to. I believe that you can still play and even though you will be wearing another jersey, I think in your heart you will still be a Bill. I will see you as one of the most influencial players, not just Buffalo Bills, of all time and personally want to again thank you for all the pleasant memories that you have generated in Orchard Park and beyond these past 8 years. Good luck to you, Fred.
Courage, toughness, sound, fundamental, one can attach whatever adjective that describes something positive about someone and it can be associated with Fred Jackson. When I think of Fred, I will think of pure heart. For love of the game, for love of the fans, and thankful for the opportunity he was given to be a professional football player. As this chapter closes for Bills fans we will continue to do what you taught us all these years: persevere, grind, and keep moving on.