One of the first things Fred Jackson did as a Seattle Seahawk was inform his new teammates how good they have it. While many of the young players who make up Seattle's roster know nothing but postseason appearances and playoff victories, Jackson, who is heading into his ninth NFL season, has yet to play in a postseason game.
So when cornerback Richard Sherman joked with his new teammate about having never appeared in the playoffs, Jackson told him, "We all haven't been that fortunate."
It shouldn't come as a surprise then that Jackson's top priority after the Buffalo Bills released him last week was a to land with a team that could contend this year.
"It's the number one motivating factor," Jackson said Monday after his first practice in a Seahawks uniform. "… You want to go somewhere where they know how to win and they've had some success, and that's the number one reason I'm here in Seattle. They know how to do it, they've been to two straight Super Bowls, and it's something that I want to be a part of."
Wanting to play for a contender, Jackson put in a call to former Bills teammate Marshawn Lynch almost immediately after finding out he had been released last week. The two remain close—Jackson said he and Lynch talked on the phone three to four times a week even after Lynch was traded to Seattle in 2010—so Jackson asked Lynch to put in a good word.
"As soon as I got the phone call, as soon as I got released, I got on the phone with him," Jackson said. "I said, 'I just got released, I wouldn't mind if you put a bug in the coach's or the GM's ear and let them know that if I can, I'd like to come out there and play.' And he did that for me. It was one of the things, as soon as I hit the waiver wire, I got that phone call, and I think he has a lot to do with me being here."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his team had immediate interest in Jackson when he became available, but noted that a good word from Lynch didn't hurt.
"Marshawn did get the word out to us that he really trusted him and knew he was a terrific team member and come-through player and had nothing but really positive stuff to say," Carroll said.
The Seahawks' interest in Jackson, of course, goes beyond an endorsement from Lynch. Seattle sees him as an ideal replacement for Robert Turbin, who was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, because of his ability to excel as a third-down back and provide solid depth behind Lynch. In particular Carroll mentioned Jackson's pass-protection skills and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which was evident in his career-high 501 receiving yards on 66 catches last season.
Despite signing with Seattle this week, Jackson will be ready to contribute in the season opener at St. Louis.
"He'll play a lot," Carroll said. "He ran the whole offense today. I don't know how he got it all done, but he got it done today so I would think he'll be ready to go."
And it's not just Jackson's physical talents that make Jackson a good fit with the Seahawks. In Seattle, Jackson joins a roster full of players who have chips on their shoulders for various reasons, which means a player who went to a Division III school, went undrafted, and then played for teams like the Sioux City Bandits and the Rhein Fire before making it in Buffalo ought to fit right in in Seattle's locker room.
"He's a real smart guy, he's a very tough competitor, he's a real team guy," Carroll said. "All of that stuff fits in. This team is made up of a bunch of guys who have come to prove something. He comes from Coe College, he's been battling his whole life to prove it, and I think he's a guy that really fits in and will fit in with the makeup of this team."
Jackson's career path shows he has had to prove people wrong on numerous occasions, and heading into his ninth NFL season, the latest challenge will be beating Father Time. Conventional wisdom in the NFL says that running backs start to slow down in their late 20s and fall off a cliff by the time they're 30, yet Jackson, who is now 34, has been a very productive back into his 30s and says he still has a lot left in the tank.
"He's a unique player," Carroll said. "There's truth to that (running backs falling off at 30) at times, but some guys defy it, and he's doing it. We saw him in his last preseason game went 40 yards with a run, so he can make things happen, so we're really pleased to get him."
Jackson explanation for outlasting the the career expectancy of an NFL back is a simple one.
"Being a big kid," he said. "I think that has a lot to do with it. I have four kids; in the offseason I chase them around. They keep me young too. That's what I try and tell anybody, anyway. Other than that I really have no idea."
Jackson wasn't expecting to finish his career anywhere but Buffalo, but now that he is in Seattle, he says, "I couldn't have picked a better place to come to."
"What better place to come out here and contribute? These guys have done tremendous things over the last four or five years, so it's something that I wanted to be a part of, and you know it was a mutual feeling, so I'm excited to be here."
Some of the top Associated Press photos of the newest Seahawks runningback, Fred Jackson