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Fred Jackson: A secret no more

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Posted Oct. 26, 2011 @ 10:36 a.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

"We like our backs to be a little bit bigger. You're not good enough right now," a scout said to Fred Jackson in the spring of 2003.

"It's tough for me to bring you in when you're weighing 190 pounds," added the scout, who was the lone member of the NFL scouting community to attend the Coe College workout that day.

Eight years later, the back who was too small is too good for NFL defenses to stop.

"It was a tough pill to swallow, especially because he was the only guy there," Fred Jackson recalled about the workout.

The scout's comment wasn't anything Jackson hadn't heard before, and it certainly wasn't going to deter him.
The 4-2 Bills are one of the surprise teams of the 2011 season, and Jackson is having his best campaign yet. In addition to ranking second in the league in rushing yards entering his team's Week Seven bye, Jackson was second in the league in total yards from scrimmage.

As Jackson's name has become more prominent, his story has gotten more attention - it's not so little-known anymore. Everyone knows that Jackson went to Division III Coe College and had to play in an indoor league and then in NFL Europe before getting a tryout with the Bills, which netted him a spot on the team's practice squad.

Is he underappreciated? In terms of money, Jackson, 30, is vastly underpaid relative to his production, but, on an arguably deeper level, his path to the NFL still might be underappreciated. The basic facts sometimes are not enough to fully appreciate the accomplishments of a player who attracted one scout, a scout who told him he was too small.

Jackson's story is one of perseverance, but also of the relationship between three tailbacks who all played at Coe College, separated by generations but connected by the triumphs of the Bills' star.

• • • •

Jackson grew up in Lamar, Texas. He and his identical twin brother, Patrick, were great athletes, but they were always too small. Wayne Phillips was the athletic coordinator for the junior high football program that the Jacksons played in.

"They were very small but tough and fundamentally sound. I recommended they play on the 'B' team freshman year," Phillips said. "Frederick became a backup on varsity and averaged about seven yards a carry."

To read the rest of this story on Fred Jackson, order a copy of the current issue of Pro Football Weekly. In the latest edition of PFW you will also find out which NFL teams are in play to move to Los Angeles. Also, don't miss fantasy football expert William Del Pilar's advice on how to study the fantasy schedule when weighing trade offers.


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