ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -After three years of not getting a sniff of the NFL, running back Fred Jackson was ready to move on with his life. The Bills are glad he didn't.
Jackson has filled in admirably for the injured Marshawn Lynch the last two weeks, and the Division III Coe College alum isn't thinking any more about giving up the game, especially after gaining a career-high 82 yards on 16 carries in Buffalo's win over Washington on Sunday.
``There was a point where I was thinking maybe this isn't going to work out, but luckily it did,'' he said. ``You definitely start to think about that. I got my degree, so you have to plan and you have to have a backup plan.''
Jackson's making the most of his opportunity since Lynch's severely sprained ankle and top backup Anthony Thomas' torn calf muscle. And he's given the Bills a fresh - and somewhat unexpected - option in the backfield.
Making his first career start against the Redskins, Jackson added four receptions for 69 yards, including a 54-yard catch in the fourth quarter that helped set up the fourth of Rian Lindell's five field goals.
Jackson's versatility and Lynch's hard-nosed running style have given rise to hopes the duo might become a formidable 1-2 punch when Lynch gets healthy.
``Me and Marshawn talk about that,'' Jackson said. ``It would be interesting to see the way defenses react.''
Jackson's showing has also given Lynch some peace of mind as he continues his rehab. Lynch was able to lightly practice on Wednesday, but won't be rushed into playing.
``With Freddy doing what he did, I feel that if it would take another week, I wouldn't have a problem with that,'' Lynch said.
Jackson's route to the NFL was hardly routine. While playing in the indoor league for two years after he graduated, he lived with his mother-in-law and worked as a part-time counselor to help save money.
He then went to Europe and played with the Rhein Fire in 2006, leading the team with 731 yards. After that season, Bills general manager Marv Levy, also a Coe College alum, contacted Jackson and invited him to training camp. Jackson spent all of the '06 season on the team's practice squad, then survived the final cut to make this season's 53-man roster.
Against Washington, he became only the second Bills running back out of Division III to ever start a game, joining former fullback Jamie Mueller (Benedictine College), who played from 1987-90.
``It's something I definitely sit down and talk to my wife about,'' Jackson said. ``We know that it was a long process.''
In four appearances, Jackson has 116 yards on 25 carries. He's also caught 12 balls for 124 yards, and his catch-and-run against the Redskins was the second-longest on the team this season.
Jackson was even named the team's third quarterback for the first five games even though he's never played quarterback in his life.
``He's done a good job every time we've asked him to do something, whether it be in practice or preseason game,'' offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said. ``Every time he's had the opportunity, he's come through and played well.''
Despite his success, Jackson won't fret when he goes back to the sidelines if Lynch is deemed ready for this Sunday's game against Miami (0-12). He's just happy for the chance to show what he's capable of accomplishing on the field.
``This is Marshawn's team,'' Jackson said. ``I don't mind spelling him.''
Neither do the Bills.

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