THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Windsor, Canada is a 10-minute drive from Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.
If anyone on the Rams knows this, it's Rams offensive lineman Alaric Jackson.
Jackson grew up in Windsor before starring at Renaissance High School in Detroit, before eventually becoming the Rams' starting left tackle.
It's special for him, but he also emphasized his focus was on the playoff game ahead and not necessarily the homecoming moment.
"It's kind of a blessing man," Jackson told theRams.com. "First time going back home and playing in front my family and our hometown, obviously. I don't want to get too caught into the moment as far as going back home to Detroit, yada yada yada that. It's more about the team and getting this dub and moving on to the next game in reality. It's definitely cool to do but it's another game for me, honestly."
Jackson started all 16 games he played in during the regular season, missing just one - Week 17 against the Giants - due to a family situation.
Like his four other trench colleagues, he's played a pivotal role in Los Angeles going 7-1 after the bye week to earn the postseason opportunity. L.A.'s offense averaged 28.3 points per game during that stretch while allowing quarterback Matthew Stafford to be sacked only 11 times. Jackson has enjoyed being able to contribute to that success in his first season as the full-time starting left tackle, earning that job by winning the position battle during training camp.
Jackson said there weren't any core memories that came to mind from his time in Detroit, other than his dad being a big Matthew Stafford and Lions fan, and rooting for other Lions players like Calvin Johnson and Ameer Abdullah. Jackson said he's got about 60 tickets for friends and family attending this game.
Rookie defensive end Desjuan Johnson also hails from Detroit, attending East English Village Preparatory Academy. Like Jackson's dad, he also has memories of watching Stafford-led Lions teams growing up.
Johnson has played in 11 games this season, but his biggest moment came in Week 18 against the 49ers, when he combined with Byron Young on the game-clinching sack fumble that helped the Rams keep possession of the No. 6 seed – and earn the right to play the Lions in his hometown.
Selected with the very last pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, this homecoming is special all-around for Johnson.
"It's a huge blessing to make the playoffs to start off with," Johnson told theRams.com. "Then my first playoff game is going back home against the Lions, so it's huge for me and my family. But It's all just a blessing to be here overall. Every day I wake up, I just thank God that I'm still here and I just took the next step."
Jackson said the last time he was at Ford Field was for his high school graduation in 2016, while Johnson was there for the MAC Championship game with Toledo on December 3, 2022.
"Last time in there, we won," Johnson said. "So I'm going back in there pretty familiar with the field, familiar with the atmosphere, so it's going to be good."