Steven Jackson, the Falcons’ newly signed running back, is a world-class traveler.
When he’s through powering through NFL defenses for a season, you might find him in Chiang Mai riding an elephant or climbing the steps of Machu Picchu in South America.
“That was just in Thailand,” Jackson said of his elephant ride. “I just recently (returned) from a stint in Southeast Asia. I also did Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.”
Jackson also has trekked along the glaciers in Patagonia and been on safaris in Africa.
There’s another major trip on Jackson’s travel itinerary.
“I’ve been to six continents,” Jackson said. “I still have Antarctica to get to.”
But for now, Jackson, who signed a three-year contract with the Falcons on Friday, hopes to help them travel to the Super Bowl next season.
He’s the all-time leading rusher for the St. Louis Rams, with 10,135 yards over nine seasons, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson. His total ranks the highest among active NFL players.
Jackson was coveted by the Falcons because in addition to his running ability, he has soft hands and is an adroit pass catcher out of the backfield. He has 407 career receptions.
The Falcons were in the market for a running back after they released Michael Turner, who had a productive run and helped turn around the franchise’s losing fortunes with his power runs and 60 touchdown jaunts over five seasons. Jackson has only 56 touchdown runs over nine seasons, as he toiled on some porous Rams teams.
About the only question on Jackson, who turns 30 in July, is if he still has some tread on the tires after 2,395 carries in the NFL.
“We’re not concerned about the critics talking about Steven’s age,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “He’s a very strong and explosive back who can carry the ball and has the versatility to catch the ball out of the backfield. He brings a great deal to the table for us.”
Jackson is a workout warrior and keeps his body in shape. Also, coupled with how the Falcons practice under coach Mike Smith, the team may be able to extend Jackson’s career for the full term of his contract.
He’ll be in Smith’s “Over 30 Club” and have the option to take off some practices during the season.
Also, with running back Jacquizz Rodgers coming on, Jackson won’t be required to carry the full load of the position.
Paul T. Boudreau, a former Falcons offensive line coach, who put together the units that blocked for Jackson during two stints with the Rams (2006-07 and 2012-present), has watched him develop as a person and a football player.
“Good kid and a heck of a guy,” Boudreau said. “He’s going to be a good guy for you to see. He’ll be a good ambassador for the organization, and he’s a pro. He does things that you don’t have to ask him to do. He does them because he’s supposed to do them the right way.”
Jackson had a rough start to his career with the Rams, as the World’s Greatest Show of Turf era was winding down. He was drafted to replace Marshall Faulk and consistently was compared with the future Hall of Famer.
With the help of receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, Jackson eventually emerged rather nicely from Faulk’s large shadow.
“He was a different style than Marshall was, but Marshall had a lot more weapons around him to have the success that he had in his career,” Boudreau said. “There has only been (27) guys that have rushed for 10,000 yards or more. For him to do it on a team that never had a winning record tells you what type of player he is.”
Working with Rodgers will not be a problem for Jackson.
Last season, Jackson, who battled through thigh and groin injuries, took rookie running backs Darryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead under his wings. He knew they essentially were drafted to replace him.
He extended them a professional courtesy that Faulk didn’t offer him early in his career.
“How he acted and carried himself tells you a lot about his character,” Boudreau said. “He accepted them, and (Richardson) had a lot of success because he didn’t have to deal with certain things.”
Jackson will do the same for Rodgers, who is set to enter his third season in the NFL.
“Seeing what he’s done on his own here in Atlanta is special,” Jackson said. “I just want to help like I did with the other guys. I won’t try to force it, but if he comes to me with any questions and I have the answer, I will help him.”
As perhaps, when he’s done next season, you’ll be able to find him doing some research in the Antarctica.