Rams' Steven Jackson an artist at work

Originally Published: July 29, 2011
By Anna McDonald | Special to Page 2

St. Louis Rams Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson exudes style.

He's an avid art collector, and showcased his pieces on MTV's "Players with Game." Jackson is also an artist whose canvas is the football field. His work of art begins when his one-of-a-kind gold and white cleats hit the turf.

"I try to take a picture before I get the ball," Jackson said. "What do I see?"

Artists will tell you the key is being able to move from the picture in your head to perfect execution. Once Jackson has the football in his hands, he becomes the paintbrush for his masterpiece, weaving in and out of defenders.

"The first thing I do is look for daylight," Jackson said about what he sees on the field. "You always hear any runner say they look for daylight and as I try to find that daylight, I take the appropriate actions to help me get to that situation. So if I have to run through someone -- around them, make a spin move -- I just try to stroke that paint brush to the point of light."

This year, Jackson is bringing his appreciation for art and his football career together. In starting an initiative called Locker Art, he is giving sketch pads to athletes and celebrities so they can generate a unique piece of art. As Jackson collects art, he will auction off the signed artwork to fans through an auction on his website, Half the money raised will go to the celebrity's charity of choice and the other half will go to the Steven Jackson Foundation, which will use the funds to help raise awareness and money for literacy and fine arts in public schools.

"Sometimes our artistic kids feel that they are overlooked and their talent is not appreciated. I just wanted to shine a light on that area," Jackson said. So far he's finding it's easy to give sketch books out to athletes but not so easy to get them back. Lots of people tell him they would love to help him but that they're not artists.

"I'm trying to get them to be confident to know whatever they put on the [sketch] pad I'm going to accept it," he said. "It's neat; we're not looking for any Michelangelos. We're just looking to help bring awareness and help continue to push something forward that is very unique and very different."

As he continues in this endeavor, he hopes to receive works of art from Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Serena Williams.

One of the first pieces of art to be auctioned off this year is by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Jackson received the sketch from him at the Pro Bowl in Honolulu in January.

"It was cool," Jackson said of Brees' sketch, reminiscent of the islands in Hawaii. "He's Drew Brees, he's cool. It's kind of appropriate, the scenery that he drew."

A work of art is special to Jackson when he feels a connection with the artist. He is 28 years old now, but his love and appreciation of art started at a young age.

"As a kid I would keep a sketch pad," Jackson recalls about his wide range of activities while growing up in Las Vegas. "I remember going to some drawing lessons on Saturday mornings."

His artistic talents at the age of 10 allowed him to capture his real goal in poem entitled, "I Am", which he wrote about wanting to be a running back in the NFL. He dreamed of winning a Super Bowl, of being remembered as one of the greatest running backs of all time.

This dream came to him because he watched his friends and a cousin he respected play football. Jackson, always the keen observer, noticed the camaraderie and the fun of just being boys on the football field.

"I played all sports," Jackson said. "Something about football captivated me, and drew near to my heart."

Today he says he is fortunate enough to be living his dream. Jackson, at 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds, is one of the elite backs in the NFL. He's rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his past six seasons. It hasn't been the easiest road; at times during his NFL career he's been in an incredible amount of pain. Jackson says his "determination of mind" and "complete mental toughness" has carried him through those difficulties.

"I believe when I'm on the field I can make a difference for my team," he said. "Sometimes it's not all about statistics. It's not about a 100-yard game and two touchdowns, but your presence draws a certain demand, a certain command of attention that you may bring some things up for your teammates, your receivers down the field, or your quarterback."

Jackson said the Rams are eager to get back to work, as training camp starts on Friday.

"The thing that really builds team chemistry is just being around guys in the locker room every day. Now that the lockout is over and we can get back to work, you can already see that team chemistry coming around. We're around each other most of the day and we're pushing each other to extremes.

"We are such a young team and have a lot of young talent," he added. "I think what a championship team is about, is about chemistry and about spending a lot of time together. For [the team] to be so young and having [Sam Bradford] have to learn another offense in his second year already, it's going to take time."

Jackson doesn't want to be known as just a football player. Yet oddly, watching his gold and white cleats run down the field, you begin to see that football is his art form.

"I have a deep appreciation of art," Jackson said. "Any kind of way I can help motivate our young artists to keep going, to keep providing us with beautiful work, I try to do so."

Anna McDonald is a Page 2 contributor and covers the Yankees for the It's About the Money, part of the SweetSpot Network. You can follow her on twitter at @Anna__McDonald. She thanks @cxhairs, @PeterJNicoll and @hurlbutvisuals for the Art 101 instruction.

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