JaMarcus Russell was a special type of quarterback. At LSU, the bulky 6’6’ QB played with fierce tenacity and sported a cannon for an arm, compiling a record of 21-6 as a starter for the Tigers. He was named MVP for the 2007 Sugar Bowl and was drafted as the first overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. How did his career take a complete 180°?
Prior to the draft, he was respectively ranked as the top-rated player and quarterback in the 2007 NFL Draft after leading his LSU squad to a National Championship. During all of the pre-draft hype, everyone was talking about where this huge QB was going to land and how successful he would be in the pros. The most notable thing about Russell besides his size was his rocket arm. This guy could launch the ball. They did a pre-draft interview/”show us whatchu got” video with JaMarcus and I’ll never forget what he was doing. JR took turns kneeling on the 40-yardline and sitting on his ass on the 50-yardline, throwing the ball consistently through the uprights. That’s right, multiple times in a row—like a well-oiled machine, he could do it all day. But just because he has a cannon doesn’t mean he has great accuracy or that his skills could translate well to against an NFL defense.
The marriage between the Raiders and Russell started on the wrong foot right off the bat. After being the #1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, JaMarcus held out the entire training camp until Oakland was willing to shell out a six-year $68 million dollar contract with $32 million guaranteed. Just because JaMarcus got paid, didn’t guarantee him a starting position. Then Head Coach Lane Kiffin knew he lacked some skills a starting NFL QB possesses and that missing the entire training camp would not benefit these skills or his football knowledge. Being the #1 overall pick in the draft, the most highly touted QB out of collegiate play, and signing a big money deal, JR thought he was a lock for the starting gig from the start. Welp, he was wrong. Russell didn’t make his first professional start until December of the 2007 season.
“Gimme a Ride to the Locker Room, Yo.”
Being the big man on campus at LSU didn’t help his ego. He constantly thought he was above everyone else and always felt entitled to something more. Special privileges, not showing up to voluntary or required workouts, slacking on diet and regime, etc. were common occurrences. The less he played, the less motivation he had to work for it—which is typically the opposite for most competitive athletes. He had his guaranteed money. He lost all motivation. His cousin Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks needed to teach him a thing or two about “Beast Mode”.
His laziness and love for food and drugs didn’t help his athletic prowess at all. He skyrocketed from a playing weight of 260 pounds to 281 pounds his first season and then ballooned up to the 310-315 pound range since getting the boot from Oakland—huge weight gain for an elite athlete in just a few years time. Mo Money, Mo Problems. Let’s just say he was now “eatin’ good”.
“Where’s My Hoagie?”
As previously stated, he had a nack for substance abuse. In 2010, he was arrested at his Mobile, Alabama home for possession of codeine syrup without a prescription. For those of you that aren’t knowledgeable of the hip-hop culture, codeine syrup aka “Purple Drank” aka “Sizzurp” aka “Sway” is a popular prescription drug abused most notably in the south—mentioned in many songs by Lil Wayne and Three Six Mafia. Russell was inadvertently arrested on these charges as part of a two-month investigation that didn’t even involve him from the start, but his name and address kept popping up when Law Enforcement was trying to infiltrate the dealers. He previously came out to the media saying that he smoked marijuana recreationally and, in an interview with ESPN, Russell stated that he tested positive for codeine shortly after being drafted by the Raiders in 2007.
A couple seasons out of the league and supposedly sporting a new outlook on life, JaMarcus Russell is looking to get back into the NFL and showcase what he’s got left in the tank. He’s 51 pounds lighter and motivated more than ever. “People are always saying I’m a bust. I want to show them I’m not. I’m committed to this now,” he told USA Today. He’s not much of a wordsmith but he’s motivated. Russell is viewed as one of, if not the biggest, bust in NFL Draft history. He’s looking to prove the haters wrong and embark on a rejuvenated football career. JaMarcus has been working out and spending a lot of time with mentors that include Jeff Garcia, Marshall Faulk, and Michael Clayton, hoping to make this a true comeback story. He looks to have workouts with NFL teams prior to training camp and has already worked out for the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens scheduled next. The Bears were impressed with what they saw, especially being that JaMarcus went from a real soft 310-315 pounds to a toned 267 pounds in a hurry. He’s motivated and finally seems to have his head remotely on straight. I hope to see him have a legitimate shot at becoming the “Chubby Comeback Kid”.