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Humble star

• For OSU's Steven Jackson, the next destination may be the NFL The running back talks about football, his other goals and growing up in Sin City

CORVALLIS Ñ The trouble with being a major-college football star is, there is hardly any time to be a kid.

The greatest running back in Oregon State history turned 20 only in July, and he considers college football the greatest experience of his young life.

But Steven Jackson is a lot of other things Ñ a solid student, a fun-loving teammate and friend, even an accommodating dance partner to an attractive classmate.

'Steven is very humble,' says LaToya Kamara, a Benson High graduate who has been a close friend of Jackson's since their freshman year. 'He is still the same sweet guy I met that first day. Everybody loves Steven on this campus. He knows people appreciate him as a player, too, but he doesn't let it get to his head.'

Jackson averaged 146.2 yards rushing in the Beavers' first six games this fall, but opposing defenses then began stacking the middle to stop the 6-3, 235-pound junior from Las Vegas. He has averaged only 80.3 yards in the last three games, a source of frustration that he masks quite well.

'If it is stressful to him, you could never tell,' coach Mike Riley says. 'He acts just like he always does. He works his tail off, and when there's a time for levity, he is laughing with his buddies.'

Jackson sat down with the Tribune for something resembling ESPN's 'Five-minute drill.'

Trib: Did you ever sneak onto the gaming tables in Las Vegas as a boy?

Jackson: Nah, it was pretty hard. My dad was a pit boss in a casino, and that's one thing he looked out for.

Trib: What was it like growing up in Sin City? A lot of temptations?

Jackson: Yeah, there are a lot of chances to get into trouble. You see guys making a lot of money real fast, and you kind of get interested in that. I stayed away. My dad is a military guy, and my mom is a church-going lady. They kept me on the straight and narrow.

Trib: When did you know you were going to be a big-time football player?

Jackson: My senior year in high school. I dominated the area, and I was starting to get recruited big-time. I kind of knew I was going to have some success in this game.

Trib: Republican or Democrat?

Jackson: Democrat. It's just the way I was brought up.

Trib: Biggest role model while growing up?

Jackson: My father. He was a strong personality who stressed morals and the importance of family.

Trib: Favorite running back while growing up?

Jackson: Ricky Williams. I saw him on TV back then a lot when he was at Texas. He was running really well at the time, and he wore No. 34, which was my number. I liked the way he ran the ball. Then he got on track to break the (NCAA) record, and I really started following him.

Trib: Your best asset as a football player?

Jackson: My field vision. After I take a handoff, it's like I can see everything in slow motion.

Trib: Your best asset as a person?

Jackson: I'm a warm-hearted guy. I like people, and I'm pretty easy to be around.

Trib: Something you need to work on?

Jackson: My maturity. You always need to continue to grow up, no matter how old you are. I would like to work on that.

Trib: A celebrity you think is sexy?

Jackson: Beyonce Knowles.

Trib: Your favorite class at OSU?

Jackson: Communications 380. It's a horror-flick class. We get to study horror movies.

Trib: Ideal dinner?

Jackson: Probably fried chicken, some greens and cornbread.

Trib: You have worn dreadlocks for some time. Why? And will you ever cut them?

Jackson: It's for style, but mostly it's a cultural thing. It kind of represents the (African-American) struggles and the strength and the unity of things coming together. I will eventually cut them, but I don't know when.

Trib: Should college athletes be paid?

Jackson: I think so. Not a lot, but a little bit to help manage our way through college. College athletes are exploited. They sell our jerseys and bring a ton of money for the university. It would be nice to get a little more help.

Trib: Your opinion of the NCAA's celebration rule?

Jackson: It's BS. They should lighten up a little bit. College football is more emotional than pro football. You are representing not only yourself but your team and your school. They should change that rule and make it for taunting, not celebrating.

Trib: Most fun thing about college football?

Jackson: Rival week. I love the rivalry thing, the two schools, the competitiveness. It brings a lot out of each other and the teams. It makes for an unbelievable game. I have grown to hate the Ducks. I didn't think I would when I came to this school, but I really do now.

Trib: Favorite video game?

Jackson: John Madden. Whatever one comes out, that's my new favorite.

Trib: Are you a good dancer?

Jackson: I think I'm pretty good. I feel the rhythm, and I can get down to it.

Trib: Your favorite singer/rapper?

Jackson: Jay-Z.

Trib: Dog or cat?

Jackson: Dog. I just like the nature of a dog. We had a pit bull when I was growing up. I want another one.

Trib: What makes you happy?

Jackson: Making my family happy. Seeing them watch me play football on Saturdays, enjoying themselves.

Trib: What makes you sad?

Jackson: When I see people down. I know life is hard, but everyone should enjoy it while we are here.

Trib: Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Jackson: As an entrepreneur, running some franchises and businesses.

Trib: Halle Berry or Angelina Jolie?

Jackson: Halle Berry. Two words: 'Monster's Ball.'

Trib: Jon Gruden or Bill Parcells?

Jackson: Bill Parcells. He's an NFL coach who brings the best out of all his athletes. I think he could help me out in my future.

Trib: Coach Riley or coach Dennis Erickson?

Jackson: Don't make me do that. I love both of them.

Trib: What scared you as a kid?

Jackson: Failure. I didn't want to let my parents down. Not only on the football field but in the classroom.

Trib: Favorite cartoon?

Jackson: He-Man.

Trib: When will you make a decision on the NFL?

Jackson: Right after our bowl game. Coach Riley and my mother and father, those three I am going to look to for advice.

Trib: 'Crank Yankers' or 'Jackass'?

Jackson: 'Jackass.' 'Crank Yankers' is good, but I like 'Jackass' better.

Trib: Have you given up your Heisman hope?

Jackson: Yeah, I gave up on it after the Washington game. But I hope I can still put up Heisman numbers.

Trib: Chris Rock or Cedric the Entertainer?

Jackson: Cedric. He is full of energy and has a great stage presence.

Trib: Best memory at OSU?

Jackson: My first career touchdown, a 63-yard run against UCLA as a freshman. That was wild.

Trib: The one thing you would like people to know about you?

Jackson: A lot of people know I am quite humble. For the position I'm in, I take great pride in that. I just want to be a great representative for the university.

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