As running back
It was fitting that on the team’s Fan Appreciation Day, the player who best knows the difficulties of the past seasons would be the one to show his appreciation for them and likewise receive that same admiration right back.
How far the relationship between Jackson and the St. Louis fans has come is but a glimpse into the bond formed between team and city as a whole.
“It meant a lot,” Jackson said. “We’ve come full circle in this walk in my professional career so far. I have a great respect for the fans, I have a great understanding of how things work in this town, and I think they’ve come to understand and know how I tick and what motivates me. So, it was mutual respect and it meant a lot.”
Jackson waved to fans, talked to a few and tossed his gloves to them. It was something small he could do for them in exchange for the excitement they brought to the Edward Jones Dome. It was a fitting cap on a day when the Rams made it an absolute point to reward their fans for their loyalty and devotion to the team even following a tough defeat.
“The fans are just class acts and you just want to give them acknowledgement for sticking around,” Jackson said. “The game got kind of out of hand for a second, but for them to stick around to say goodbye on the season, you want to acknowledge that.”
Sunday marked the fourth consecutive year the Rams have made their final home game of the season Fan Appreciation Day, offering up valuable prizes, giveaways, discounted merchandise and concessions and much more.
In total, the Rams gave away 40 team-issued, autographed throwback jerseys including eight that came with gift certificates to places such as h.h. gregg, Dream Play and Tani Sushi Restaurant.
Also included in the day’s festivities were seat upgrades, home entertainment packages, lucky row drawings, 50 percent off discounts on all merchandise at the team store and food. The first 10,000 kids 14 and under also received a bobblehead doll of quarterback
For 20 long-time season ticket holders and their guests, the experience included a chance to go on the field to take part in a “fan tunnel” where they were a part of welcoming the Rams on to the field for pre-game introductions.
The unique experience certainly resonated with long-time ticket holder Tod Fagan.
“It was very exciting to be on the field and get a real look and sound at what it’s like to hear 50,000 screaming fans as the players come onto the field,” Fagan said. “To see the players up close and really get an idea of their size and intensity is awesome. You also get a first hand look at everything that is going taking place on the field as kick off gets close.
“Everyone felt like they were a part of the Rams. Everyone was talking about how cool it was to have the players slap your hands as they came out of the tunnel. It just made you feel like you were part of the team.”
Fagan has been a season ticket holder since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995 and has been hooked on Rams football ever since, even making it a point to attend away games whenever the opportunity arises.
In the past few years, Fagan has noticed the efforts made by the Rams to be more inclusive of fans and reward them for their dedication through the good and the bad times and not just on Fan Appreciation Day.
Little things like an e-mail that goes out to season ticket holder during the week with a rundown of what’s going on with the team on and off the field go a long way.
“The Rams have made great strides in recognizing the season ticket holders and all of the fans that show up to the games,” Fagan said. “In the past it seems that the Rams have taken the season ticket holders and fans for granted. There seems to be a better awareness of how loyal the fans have been and a better appreciation towards the season ticket holders. I’m finally feeling like my devotion to the team is being noticed.”
The Rams have also made consistent efforts to provide more opportunities for the fans to interact with players, coaches and even staff away from the confines of a normal gameday.
Each month, the Rams go out into the community for a service day where the office shuts down and they serve an entity in need of help be it the Salvation Army bell ringing effort or going to Joplin to help clean up and rebuild.
This year, the team added a preseason Fan Fest where fans could attend a team scrimmage and get an early glimpse at what was to come. That was followed by a lengthy autograph signing session to finish the day.
Wayne Turley II, one of the team’s most passionate fans who attends every game with his father, said he sees the relationship with the Rams strengthening in more ways than just improved performance on the field.
“I believe the organization has done a phenomenal job of engaging the fan base over the last few years,” Turley said. “The work the organization promotes in the community as well as during game-day atmosphere, has been fantastic. It's great to see the team making a difference on the field and off the field. This is a drastic change from years past.”
While the Rams are almost certain to come up just short of a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, there have been obvious strides made on the field, strides that only figure to make the Edward Jones Dome a more difficult place to play in the future.
In just one season under coach Jeff Fisher, the difference in performance has been obvious. And with a foundation laid on the football end, the Rams have taken notice that the feeling of appreciation is a mutual one.
“Well, we’ve had great support all year,” Fisher said. “I know that they’re paying attention to what we’re doing and from a player standpoint, they love the participation. They love the energy in there, especially when momentum changes and they know they can be a factor.”