Yesterday I was sitting at work when a tweet came across my timeline, “The Bills are releasing RB Fred Jackson.” At first glance I thought it was a joke. It couldn’t be. One of the most beloved players of all-time was being released during the first round of cuts? Get the hell out of here. But then more and more tweets flooded in all from reliable sources… it was really happening.
Three years ago, right around this time, a local TV station in Buffalo asked if I wanted to be a part of their new Buffalo Bills show. WBBZ explained that the show would be in the same vein as the throwback Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas shows. I remember finding out that it was going to be called “The Fred Jackson Show” and was ecstatic. Fred was one of the lone bright spots on the team back then and I couldn’t wait to start working with him. Fast-forward three years and I am proud to now call Fred a friend.
As the show grew year after year, so did Fred’s career. He exploded into the “Governor of Buffalo,” to use a quote from his close friend Aaron Williams. Everyone in WNY fell in love with Fred not only on the field, but also off it. Fred was the guy you could relate to. He was the one that no matter what was going on with the team, you could rely on. He was also always first to ask me how I was doing and how life was outside of just the show. He genuinely cared about everyone who was apart of the show. Didn’t matter if you were on it, a camera guy, an intern, or just someone in the studio audience. It is just how Fred was. Kind and compassionate.
As the Bills struggled over the years and Fred dealt with various injuries of his own, it was easy to expect him to be bitter, but he never was. Even during the toughest weeks, after facing season ending surgery, or missing out on the playoffs, he’d always come into the studio on Monday nights with a smile on his face. Ironically, despite the whole show being about him, it seldom ever was. Then again would you expect anything different from #22?
Even though Fred was released yesterday, it still doesn’t feel real to me. I never thought in a million years that he wouldn’t be apart of this team. He endured all of the losing and all of the turbulence surrounding ownership and for what? So he could be kicked to the curb when the team finally showed promise? It just doesn’t seem fair. The hardest part for me in all of this is that he is still performing at such a high level. Watching him during Saturday’s pre-season game, I was so impressed. I remember thinking to myself, damn Fred is going to help this team win football games… and now he’s gone.
I know all the reasons behind why it is the “right football move,” but to be honest I don’t care. I don’t care if it’ll help lock up other players down the line. I don’t care if he’s an aging player with an injury history. I don’t care about any of that because of how much Fred has meant to this city, community and team. If ever there was a player who deserved for the team to stick by him it’s Fred Jackson. This team is in no way, shape, or form better without him.
Clearly this is all a bit personal for me. Fred and his family were people I got to know. I just saw his wife Dani this past weekend and she had said how excited they both were for a new season of the show. Something none of us saw coming, but how could you? He was supposed to help this team make the playoffs this season. He was supposed to be here until the end. He was supposed to retire as a Buffalo Bill.
As I know is the case for many of you, I wish nothing but the best for Fred and will be rooting for him no matter where he ends up (which according to latest reports looks like Seattle. Three cheers to it not being New England!) This business can be downright heartless and this season certainly won’t be the same without the team’s heart & soul. Fred will always mean more to this team & city than I could write about in this article, or words can express. I will always consider him a friend and role-model regardless of anything. In the end Fred has made a deep impact on my life and I can never thank him enough for that. So goodbye old friend. When the time comes to finally hang up your cleats, I’ll see you at the Ralph so we can put your name up on that wall.
Tweet of the Week:
No… Thank You Fred.
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