NFL Player Steven Jackson, sits down exclusively with Flavourmag and talks hip hop, rugby, Brand Beckham, Arsenal and of course, groupies. The Atlanta Falcons Baller is a frequent visitor to the UK, having played during his tenure as a player at The St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium against the New England Patriots last year. With American sports fervently trying to tap into a European audience, we thought it fitting to get to know one of the NFL’s most popular and hardworking players.
What kind of music do you listen to when you work out?
I listen to a mixture of everything, a lot of hip-hop. My favorite artist is Jay-Z, Kanye West as well. I listen to a lot of house music, like Calvin Harris.
What gets you in the zone when you’re going on the field?
Hard beats, more in the lines of like T.I. Young Jeezy, very hardcore very hard beats just whatever it takes to help me get pumped to go out there.
If you had an alter ego rapper who would you be?
I think Jay-Z he’s been at the top of his game for over a decade and he just continues to raise the bar in his business. Its what I try to do for my business as well.
Do you have any other businesses on top of what you do?
Yes I do, a real estate company as well. I have a production company, I have shot some short documentaries.
The ones on your website? They are really good. How do you mentally prepare for a match?
I visualize a lot, the thing about the mind is it’s so powerful if you start visualizing what you want to do and the moves that you want to make. The mind can’t really understand it, but I use it to react to something on the field. It happens with out me thinking about it, with out hesitation.
Who is Steven Jackson off the pitch? What are your interests, what do you do?
Traveling, it’s my hobby. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a majority of the world. The only place left to see is Antarctica, after that I’ll continue to circle the world.
You’ve been to the UK right? Tell us what you think.
Actually I enjoyed the UK, I’ve had the chance to visit London 3 times now. My latest journey there was to play at Wembley Stadium against the Patriots. The experience was really good, especially for my teammates and for me to be able to play an American sport in such a historic stadium was huge for me.
I think I remember hearing something about that, because they were trying to make popular something of the sport in the UK.
The NFL wants to move a franchise there as well. The logistics of how you get a team from America to travel there would be a little difficult…
Yeah it’s a difficult sport to kind of crack.
You know I’m actually very knowledgeable about all of that. The stadium was sold out and people were actually pretty into it, they knew what was going on.
It’s pretty similar to rugby with the rough and toughness, the excitement of it all. Would you ever play rugby?
If I grew up in the UK I probably would. This is our form of the sport. We’re at a place now in America where we are trying to find protective ways of getting good gear and avoiding concussions.
I think that anytime we play a sport like this, it’s important to wear protective gear.
Rugby is definitely more brutal, a lot of broken noses, blood everywhere.
Yeah I give them credit they are very tough, but here in America we are trying to find that balance between violence and protection.
If you weren’t playing football what would you be doing?
I’d be an architect, I went to school for it, I enjoyed it. When I was 17 years old I was a certified CAT operator so I understand blue prints, I understand how building things and having to come together as a group to make something come to life. It has a team fill to it, which I am used to.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to be in this sport, wanting to get in to it?
My first advice is to always have a plan B, but if you don’t and if you really want to become a running back or a professional athlete period, I think you need to dedicate yourself whole heartedly your craft and learn how to do the things that maybe become meticulous, the things you don’t want to work on. But I do those things daily, the same thing I would teach a 7-year-old child to do, I do that routinely every day, and of course my workouts have elaborated over the years but I never forget the basics.
Was this always your chosen career path, like as a kid was this what you wanted to do?
It was, I had the chance to write a poem when I was 10 that stated “I Am AN NFL Running Back…”
I read it, it was really good.
Thank you, and so for a very long time I wanted to be in the NFL, I even went to far as to turn down some IVY League Schools and potentially get a great education and pursue other dreams. So I definitely understand people that have dreams, this was my dream and I also know what its like to have someone deny my dreams and I wouldn’t ever want to do that to anyone.
Has anyone in the past tried to deter you from this? Prior to you signing?
Yeah it’s happened to me, at the age of 7 I was told by a teacher that I would never be above average. So in 2004 I launched a foundation named after myself to help combat illiteracy for children. So you know I think especially at that age they are so innocent and so fragile that they need to have some good support around them not only with their families but with the outside as well.
If you could sum up the NFL in 3 worlds what would those words be?
Not For Long. Lol! You know the average career for a running back is 3.5 years and I’m going on 10 years so..
That’s very impressive.
9 years for the same team this is my first year for the Atlanta Falcons.
So how is the transition? I read somewhere that you were hanging up your boots or cleats?
Yes I was I was thinking about hanging up my cleats, I went away on vacation, I really thought over what would be my next 4-5 year plan. Right now I have so much passion and so much desire to win a Super Bowl that I didn’t want to give up on it to early.
“Right now I have so much passion and so much desire to win a Super Bowl that I didn’t want to give up on it to early.”
So you’re contract with ATL is 3 years, then what happens?
Then I become the next entrepreneur of sports, in the likes of Magic Johnson.
Are you a fan of any other sport?
I am yes, I am a huge fan of David Beckham, I am a huge fan of his brand and internationally what he’s become.
It has a lot to do with his wife by the way…
Yes and although he is a sex symbol in a lot of peoples eyes, he’s very family oriented too, I have a lot of respect for people who keep that balance.
So what other interests do you have outside of football?
I’m a huge sports fan in general, I watch NFL football of course and soccer in the UK. You know my former team the St Louis Rams, the owner Stan Kroenke, he owns Arsenal football club as well. So when we went off to play in London we got the opportunity to practice on the Arsenal football ground, that was a great experience. I watch a lot of basketball I am a huge Lebron James and Kobe Bryant fan. Outside of that, you’ll catch me either traveling or reading book.
So like on your downtime, here’s the thing back home in England there’s this kind of fascination with the lifestyle of a “Baller,” you know, Rappers talk about it all the time, but then you know we kind have no idea. We watch movies like “Any Given Sunday” and “Jerry McGuire” and we’re kind of like is that what its like?
I mean in some aspects yes but not for everyone.
Like the intense agent trying to get you the best deal and you feel like you’re not…
The hard work you’re putting in and the injuries and stuff like that, is that what it’s like?
Yes, yes it is.
That’s kind of tough huh?
What is the business of football, is it rude for me to say it’s just a game?
No it’s not rude for you to say that, because from the outside looking in it appears to be that.. but really it is a business 6 days out of the week. It’s only a game on Sunday but the thing about the game of football is were such young people and we have a small window of opportunity to maximize what you bring to a team and franchise so when you try to embody everything from using a likeness to jersey sales to you’re production on the football team, you have to be able to look at what’s trending in NFL and try to eclipse where you want to be before you retire in your 20s. You have a long life to live, you retire at 26 to 27 you still got a long way to go.
What do you do?
That’s the thing, right now we have taken incentive to allowing players to do other things in there off season let them to internships, let them get there degrees and do things like that so they can be better prepared for the transition once their careers are over.
So you were born in Vegas, then you moved to St Louis, and you’re now here in Atlanta. How has the transition been so far?
It’s been smooth so far, we haven’t gotten together as a team yet that happens in May. The reaction from the crowd and the local people has been phenomenal.
Have you met all the players yet?
No not all of them, only a few like the quarter back Mike Ryan, Tyler, Julio Jones and Rodney White. So I know a lot of the offensive guys, I haven’t had a chance to meet the defensive guys yet.
Are you nervous about meeting your teammates and being the new guy?
I’m not, I guess 10 years of being in the NFL a lot of people know about me more then I even know, I have to get used to the new faces new things. But I’m not nervous at all I’m actually looking forward to the transition.
Atlanta’s a big party town, I’m sure once you start playing some games there’s going to be a lot of requests for you to come to clubs and stuff. Is that your thing?
I mean I’m from Las Vegas the capital of partying, during the NFL season I actually don’t party, I’ll go out after a big win with my team for good reasons. But as far as me being out weekly or nightly, that’s just not who I am during the season.
What is a typical day like for you, get up in the morning, go to the gym?
So there are two variations for me. In the off-season, I am more chill more laid back.
In the NFL season, I typically wake up around 5 in the morning, have a light breakfast and I try to be at our facilities where we practice around 7 am. I am breaking down some of the other team, try to learn what they like to do and some tendencies I can pick up. And then from there you roll into a day of lifting weights, team meetings getting the game plan for the game, we go out and practice later on which is typically 2 hours. Then after practice you shower up, watch the film from practice and make some corrections and then you get done around 4-5 pm so it’s a full day.
So when you’re not playing?
I tend to sleep in till about 7 in the morning, I’m a morning person. I tried to do a bit of reading, watch some news. I watch Fox Business, I watch CNN and I watch BBC. So I try to get a whole grip for what’s going on not only nationally but what’s going on in the world. After I get done I keep myself busy in some kind of way. I go to the gym to release stress.
You get stressed? What stresses you?
Every day life just like you, my job is just… things come up. I have a family I need to provide for and things I need to tend to as well as continuing to push the brand and evolve and be seen as more than just a football player.
So when are you coming back to London?
I will probably be back in London maybe this summer maybe July.
Interview by Julia Huie-Martin: @juliahuiemartin