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|Fred Jackson was so strapped for cash while playing professional football in Germany Authentic Mike Cammalleri Jersey , he and his wife had to rely on their poker winnings to afford going out for fancy dinners.
"I was broke," the former Buffalo Bills running back said, laughing while reflecting back to his 2006 season with the now-defunct NFL Europa Rhein Fire.
"We played poker so we could go out to eat and go see some of the sights and stuff like that courtesy of my teammates," he added, noting his wife, Danielle, was better than him at cards.
"It was one of those things that made me appreciate everything about this, coming from those humble beginnings."
Jackson had time to reminisce Wednesday upon returning to Buffalo to sign a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bills. The formality brought closure to a nine-season NFL playing career Jackson built on both a powerful running style and sheer perseverance.
That combination led the undrafted Division III Coe College product to make the jump from playing in the U.S. Indoor Football League to Europe and then Buffalo's practice squad before finally entrenching himself as a Bills' fan-favorite.
"It's a story that's like nobody else's, and that's something to be proud of," said Jackson, who made his NFL debut with Buffalo as a 26-year-old rookie in 2007.
"It's something that I try to share with students when I go talk to schools. Just because you don't get drafted, don't give up. And it makes it that much sweeter when you accomplish it."
Jackson led the Bills in yards rushing during four of his eight seasons in Buffalo despite sharing a backfield first with Marshawn Lynch and then C.J. Spiller. He still ranks third on the team list with 5,646 yards rushing and 15 100-yard games, and fourth with 30 touchdowns rushing.
As for popularity, Jackson became one of the faces of the franchise for his leadership and lunch-bucket approach. He was so respected by his teammates , many began honoring Jackson by wearing a T-shirt that featured the phrase: "FredEx Delivers."
"When I looked at Fred, I identified him as a guy like Ivan Provorov Jersey , 'You know what? I really don't want to let that guy down,'" Bills veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams said.
"Those guys are, I'm not going to say rare because I feel like we've had some good guys come through these doors. But those guys are special, and Fred's one of those guys."
Overall, Jackson finished with 5,746 yards rushing and 39 touchdowns (nine receiving), including his final season in 2015, which he spent with Seattle after being cut by the Bills.
Though he's not played since, Jackson said he was still attracting interest from teams, including the Minnesota Vikings last season.
At 37, he decided it was finally time to call it quits.
"That's ancient for a running back and it was just time," Jackson said. "And to be able to come back to Buffalo and sign a one-day contract makes it a little easier."
Though he now lives in Iowa, Jackson plans to maintain a connection to Buffalo, where he is a part owner of a downtown steak restaurant. He's already made plans to hold a youth football camp in August, which he hopes becomes an annual event.
Jackson will always remain a Bills fan, and felt a part of the team last season, when Buffalo clinched a playoff berth on the final weekend of the season to end what had been a 17-year postseason drought.
"I was running around the house screaming Patrick Kane Jersey , and my son was doing the same thing," said Jackson, who made the playoffs in his one season with the Seahawks. "We're still huge Bills fans. This is still family for us. We were as ecstatic as everybody else."
An endorsement deal between Nike and Colin Kaepernick prompted a flood of debate Tuesday as sports fans reacted to the apparel giant backing an athlete known mainly for starting a wave of protests among NFL players of police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues.
The deal unveiled by Nike and the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was a trending topic on Twitter and other social networks, with some fans urging a boycott of the company's clothes and sneakers 鈥?even burning and cutting out the signature swoosh logos on their gear.
Others pushed back, saying the backlash against Nike showed the polarizing debate has morphed well beyond whether NFL players should be allowed to demonstrate for social causes while the national anthem plays in stadiums before games.
The league itself weighed in Tuesday afternoon with an executive saying the social issues Kaepernick has raised are valid.
"We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities," said Jocelyn Moore, the NFL's executive vice president of communications and public affairs. "The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action."
Moore's statement was paired with a detailed breakdown of things players and league executives have done together to learn about and address social issues, including community meetings, lobbying and financially supporting local programs.
On Twitter, country music star John Rich posted a picture of one of his crew members holding the tops of a cut pair of Nike socks, with the caption: "Get ready @Nike multiply that by the millions." The tweet garnered about 10,000 retweets and 30,000 likes, plus thousands of critical comments.
Rich, part of the duo Big & Rich and a former contestant of President Donald Trump's reality show "The Celebrity Apprentice Authentic Mats Zuccarello Jersey ," said he supported the right to protest but Nike lost his support when it endorsed Kaepernick.
Mixed martial arts fighter Elias Theodorou, a UFC middleweight, tweeted a widely shared picture of the Nike logo with a meme that read: "Instead of throwing away your Nike gear give to one of the millions of homeless veterans you pretend to care about."
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said: "I hope other corporations follow (Nike's) example."
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, tweeted: "Proud to be an @usnikefootball athlete. Stand for something or fall for anything. Few moments in history has that been more true!"
Trump, a frequent critic of protesting NFL players, said Tuesday in an interview with the Daily Caller that he thinks it's a "terrible message" for Nike to use Kaepernick in ads, but that it's their decision whether to use the quarterback.
"I think it's a terrible message that they're sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there's a reason for them doing it," Trump said, adding it's "a message that shouldn't be sent."
Trump said it's ultimately a business decision for Nike.
"In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn't do, but I personally am on a different side of it," he said.
Trump has loudly urged the league to suspend or fire players who demonstrate during the anthem, repeatedly diving into what has developed into one of the most contentious debates in sports.
Kaepernick already had a deal with Nike that was set to expire, but it was renegotiated into a multiyear deal to make him one of the faces of Nike's 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign, according to a person familiar with the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Nike hasn't officially announced the contract.
The person said Nike will feature Kaepernick on several platforms Roman Josi Jersey , including billboards, television commercials and online ads. Nike also will create an apparel line for Kaepernick, including a signature shoe, and contribute to his Know Your Rights charity, the person said. The deal puts Kaepernick in the top bracket of NFL players with Nike.
"I stand for anybody that believes in change. I stand for anybody that believes in a positive attitude," LeBron James said Tuesday night at a Nike fashion show and awards ceremony in New York. "I stand with Nike, every day, all day."
Nike also provides all NFL teams with game day uniforms and sideline apparel, a partnership that was extended in March to run through 2028.
Last week, Kaepernick scored a legal victory in his grievance against the NFL and its 32 teams when an arbitrator allowed his case to continue to trial. The quarterback claims that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests. His case hinges on whether owners worked together rather than decided individually to not sign Kaepernick.
A similar grievance is still pending by former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, a Pro Bowl safety who joined in the protests.
Meanwhile, the league and players union still haven't resolved whether players will be punished this season if they choose to kneel or demonstrate during the national anthem. Owners approved a policy requiring players to stand if they are on the sideline during "The Star-Spangled Banner," allowing them to stay off the field if they wish.
But the league and union put that on hold after the Miami Dolphins faced backlash for classifying the protests as conduct potentially detrimental to the team 鈥?putting players at risk of fines or suspensions.
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