IRVINE, Calif. - The return of fans to Training Camp presented by UNIFY Financial Credit Union has also meant the return of Rams legends, including the franchise's all-time leading rusher Steven Jackson.
Jackson made the trip from Las Vegas to Irvine to sign autographs for fans alongside fellow Rams great Doug Smith prior to practice, then watched Friday's session. Jackson was also kind enough to chat with reporters before practice began to discuss current Rams running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr., what it's like being at training camp, and what he's been up to recently.
Excitement about what Darrell Henderson Jr. can do, feeling for Cam Akers
Jackson said he gets excited about young running backs who can weather the speed and physicality of the game and continue to show consistency and improvement.
In that vein, Darrell Henderson Jr. is entering his third season with a big opportunity ahead in wake of Cam Akers tearing his Achilles last week. Jackson is looking forward to seeing what Henderson can do.
"He's been around for awhile now, he's always been a guy someone we as an organization can depend on," Jackson said. "No matter if someone went down, be it (former Rams running back Todd) Gurley or whoever it is, Henderson just always seems to be the guy you can consistently count on. So I'm really excited to see what he does with this opportunity he has in front of him, because he can play at the professional level. It's about him going to the next step."
At the same time, Jackson also said it was "unfortunate" to see Akers get hurt because of how he was developing over the course of his rookie year. However, Akers' mental toughness should allow him to come back from it stronger.
"I was actually talking to the organization about Akers, and seeing what Cam (was doing), he was developing," Jackson said. "Especially last year, he looked really good. Crisp in his cuts, really fast, downhill kind of player, really fit the offensive scheme well, so to have him have this setback is unfortunate. But mentally, I think he's a tough guy. I think he will bounce back from this and (come back) better."
Attending training camp, and what's new with him
Jackson joined former Rams offensive lineman Doug Smith as the two Legends of the Day who signed autographs for fans before Friday's practice.
After COVID-19 protocols forced teams to have closed training camps at their local facilities, Jackson said it was meaningful for him being back and being able to interact with fans. He was generous with his time, spending a little over an hour signing items for them, then later joined Voice of the Rams J.B. Long and Team Reporter Sarina Morales on the main stage of the fan activation area.
"It's an amazing experience (being here)," Jackson said. "Obviously after the 2020 season where we didn't have fans around, to being interactive at training camp with Rams fans, it means a lot. It gives me energy, and I hope I give them energy. But I think we're all here because we love the Rams, so it's been great."
Jackson made the trip from Las Vegas, where he currently lives and recently launched a T-Shirt company called OBS that allows him to channel both his creative side and competitive side.
"We have t-shirts, we have hoodies, we have crew necks, and we're doing a really good thing in Las Vegas," Jackson said. "We have a pretty grassroots start right now, but the city's embracing it. It's been fun. It allows for me to be creative, but I get that competitive spirit in business. I can feel what my competitors are doing, and they're trying to ante up."