Fred Jackson is alive and well, at least physically. His surprising release by the Buffalo Bills has sent a wave of sadness through much of the team’s fandom, but Fred knows worse things happen to people everyday.

Fred Jackson spent much of his time in Buffalo visiting with folks who have had worse things happen to them. Visits to hospitals, lending his name and personal appearances to countless fund raisers. Fred was always available to lend support and give back, it was one of the things fan grew to love about him.

Now two days after being cut Fred is already looking ahead to the challenge of playing for Seattle or another NFL team. Fred Jackson is not one to curl up in a ball in a darkened room and feel sorry for himself. The final chapter in the book of Fred Jackson playing in the NFL has yet to be written.

I got to know Fred Jackson a bit over the the three years we did his weekly television show. Monday after Monday, regardless of the outcome of the previous game, he would come in the building with a smile, a handshake and a hug.

Some nights Fred would walk in with his wife Danielle and his four beautiful kids. Some nights just a teammate he had asked to be on the show with him. Regardless, win or lose, Fred was always Fred. He was always and I mean always, ready to discuss whatever happened in the game and face a studio full of fans waiting for the opportunity to meet their hero.

Over the course of my career I have co-hosted television shows with Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Cornelius Bennett. I was also involved in the creation of the Bill Polian, Marv Levy and Frank Reich shows. All great experiences, but nothing quite tops doing live television with Fred.

Never once did Fred say to me before a show “don’t ask me about this” or “don’t bring up that play”. Fred never took me aside and tell me something was off limits or show any signs of wishing he could be somewhere else.

Now some might say “what’s not to like about having your own television show”? Well, believe me, many players have their agents sign them to a deal and then when they have a bad game or the season goes south they begrudgingly show up in person or on the phone. Not Fred Jackson.

Part of Fred’s agreement was that he would stay for at least 30 minutes after the show to sign autographs, Yet, last season when the team was doing well and at least 100 fans showed up each night, Fred would often stay for almost an hour, signing everything and anything fans brought along. Never once did Fred leave before everyone in attendance, including Eastern Hills Mall security guards, received an autograph or take a photo with number 22.

There were also nights when Fred would leave the studio and go directly to a charity fund raiser as a favor to a teammate or make an appearance at the home of sick child. Fred appreciated the support he received from the community and gave back in spades.

Then there were the players Fred brought in each week. One could see the respect and admiration Fred’s teammates had for him when they accompanied him to the show. Not to mention the fact all agreed to stay for however long it took to sign autographs.

When I did the Thurman Thomas show on Empire Sports back in the day many of the Bills players left immediately afterwards choosing not to hang around to sign.

Fred’s relationship with most of the players he brought to the show seemed to be that of a big brother. That was especially true of Aaron Williams and CJ Spiller.

When the Bills drafted Spiller one would have thought a rivalry would exist between him and the already established Jackson. No way, the two became good friends and CJ was a regular visitor to Fred’s program.

Fred endured every challenge and challenger the Bills put in front of him. However, the trade for LeSean McCoy was different. When a new coaching staff brings in a star player at your position you know they have an agenda.

Fred told Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News that Doug Whaley had not been honest with him. Some reports claim Whaley went “rogue” and made the move to cut Jackson without full support of ownership or Rex Ryan. Who’s to know?

Doug Whaley must have felt Fred had overstayed his welcome last year when he traded a draft choice for another young back in Bryce Brown from the Eagles. Brown not only failed to challenge Jackson or Spiller for playing time, he was often inactive for the games.

Over the years there have been only a handful of Buffalo players who were able to retire as a Bill before being shown the door. Jim Kelly and Steve Tasker come to mind, but Hall of Fame inductees Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and Bruce Smith all were released.

Thomas did come back to Buffalo after one year as a Dolphin to sign with the team for a day so he could “officially” retire a Buffalo Bill.

Regardless of how the next season plays out, Fred Jackson will always be remembered as a Buffalo Bill and will be placed on the Bills’ Wall of Fame the second he is eligible. What Fred Jackson brought to this team and this community will long out last the sour taste left by his release. Great players and great people always leave a lasting memory that cannot be erased by time. Class always wins out in the end.




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