On the day that legendary running back Steven Jackson arrived for duty, Ball checked his locker again and he was No. 31. No questions asked. Jackson has worn that number for his entire career.
Ball would have given it to Jackson anyway. Ball grew up in Missouri where Jackson played the first nine years of his career. He gave Ball his first autograph (Ball is seven years younger than Jackson).
"Even if he would have asked for 39, I would have given it to him because I have so much respect for that man," Ball said. "I was talking to him today and telling him that when I was little, he was the first person I ever got an autograph from. I'm from right outside St. Louis and he was with the Rams. I went to one of the Rams' camps when I was young -- 11, 12 years old, 13 -- and he was there. It's funny how everything comes full circle.
"All my extended family were St. Louis fans, so I've seen a lot of Jackson jerseys around my house. It's crazy now that we're on the same team, in he same running back room. It's a blessing."
Now that we've gotten the warm and fuzzy stuff out of the way, here are two totally Bill Belichick-ian theories we have out of left field as to why this happened.
- Belichick somehow knew this, and decided that the best way to mold Ball into the dynamic running back that draft analysts projected him to be was to bring in his idol and rekindle Ball's childhood love of football.
- Belichick purposely gave Ball 39 knowing that he would sign Steven Jackson and take the number away in an effort to humble Ball into accepting the Patriot way.
Neither of these are probably true, but as much as we're looking forward to seeing Belichick utilize Steven Jackson, we're just as excited to see what he can do with Ball during his time on the practice squad, and whether or not Ball will actually make it to the active roster at some point this season or during the playoffs.