JaMarcus Russell’s name surfaces this time every year, and not in a way any of us would envy. He generally headlines those “Greatest Draft Busts In NFL History,” and not without reason: the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft, he wrangled a $32 million guaranteed contract out of the Oakland Raiders, then fumbled and stumbled his way through three inconsistent seasons. Out of football for more than half a decade, he remains the ultimate draft day cautionary tale.
A new Sports Illustrated video delving deeper into Russell’s life gives a fuller picture of the former quarterback as he is today … and offers up the interesting revelation that he still has dreams of playing in the NFL.
Russell came out of LSU with momentum, winning MVP of the 2007 Sugar Bowl and certainly appearing to be on the right trajectory for stardom by going first in the draft. (Just for cringing reference: that draft also included Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Greg Olsen, and many more Pro Bowlers and long-term contributors.)
The trouble began early for Russell, as he held out into the season. Unprepared on both a physical and preparatory level, Russell didn’t even see the field until December, and his performance then didn’t exactly spark confidence. He started for the Raiders in 2008 and early 2009, but lost his starting job to Bruce Gradkowski late in the 2009 season. He was cut after 2009, and hasn’t played since, even though he drew salaries for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons.
Concerns about Russell’s weight and work ethic dogged him for years and eventually helped run him out of the league. Now, though, comes the revelation that Russell has continued to seek employment with NFL teams, even going so far as to write letters testifying to his ability and willingness to work:
“As a former NFL player, I understand the daily grind that football operations can be,” Russell wrote to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, per the SI video and PFT. “I am prepared to be physically examined and to have my football IQ evaluated. I would sincerely like an opportunity to come to Dallas and meet with you and the coaching staff. I know that my name does not carry much weight in the NFL right now but I am more than the image that others have bestowed on me. I’ve been labeled as a bust, I have been labeled as lazy and I have been the target of many insults by the media. The blame for any negative press that I’ve received rests squarely on my shoulders.”
It’s tough to tell how serious Russell is in the video; he claims to be willing to be the waterboy and work his way onto the scout team, all for free. Real desire, or faint hope by someone grasping for direction? Either way, it’s a look at an NFL bust that any player with dreams of glory, any fan with assumptions of how easy players have it, ought to watch.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- JaMarcus Russell
- Oakland Raiders