Running back Fred Jackson deserves a lot of credit for having a long shelf life at a position that doesn’t usually offer such a thing. The former 1,000-yard rusher played 266 snaps and picked up 357 yards from scrimmage as a role player with the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, despite the fact he was 34 years old.
There wasn’t even another back in football who had turned 33.
Jackson sat out the 2016 season, but he hasn’t filed his retirement papers and he says he still wants to play at the age of thirty-freakin’-six.
“I want to play, but it’s one of those things where we’ll see what happens,” Jackson recently told WGR 550 in Buffalo. “Training camps are around the corner. Some teams lose a back or two and maybe they give me a call. We’ll see what happens. I’m not ready to hang ‘em up yet, but I do know that I’m 36 and a lot of teams are scared of that.”
And for good reason. In modern NFL history (post-1970 merger), only five true halfbacks have ever carried the football in an NFL game at or beyond the age of 36:
1. Bill Brown had 19 carries for 41 yards at the age of 36 for the Minnesota Vikings in 1974.
2. MacArthur Lane had 52 carries for 277 yards at the age of 36 for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1978.
3. John Riggins had 176 carries for 677 yards at the age of 36 for the Washington Redskins in 1985.
4. Cullen Bryant had a single two-yard rush at the age of 36 for the Los Angeles Rams in 1987.
5. Marcus Allen had 206 carries for 830 yards at the age of 36 for the Chiefs in 1996, and then he followed that up with 505 yards on 124 carries as a 37-year-old the next season.
So is a comeback realistic? Since he’d be trying to do something no back has done this century, probably not. But Jackson defied the odds two years ago so who knows.
The good news is that because he was a lead back for only a couple years with the Bills, there might be more tread on Jackson’s tires than a typical 36-year-old running back. He’s carried the ball 200-plus times only twice in his career, and Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray and Jonathan Stewart all have more career rushes than Jackson.
But age is age, and Father Time is undefeated. Jackson has his work cut out for him.