Critics of JaMarcus Russell always questioned whether the drive was there. Now, with the former No. 1 pick fighting his way back to playing weight and showing a renewed interest in the game, the question is whether he’ll get a chance to take his newly rediscovered drive to the NFL.
Russell, who is considered one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, is attempting a comeback, Yahoo! Sports reports. The 27-year-old last played in 2009 and failed to make an impact in tryouts with the Redskins and Dolphins in 2010, but he has been working out and wants another chance.
“I’m not looking for a pat on the shoulder from people who haven’t been there for me,” Russell told Yahoo! Sports. “It feels funny not to go through training camp — that’s just what I’m used to. It’s going to feel good to get back out there again. I will make this happen.”
Russell had a wretched first few years in the NFL with the Raiders, going 7-18 with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and just a 52.1 percent completion rate over three years. After Oakland finally cut him, he did all but swear off football, turning his back on the heavy criticism that came along with what many called a lack of effort despite his athleticism.
Russell, who was once a tough 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds, saw his weight climb to as many as 320 pounds this fall, according to Yahoo! Sports, but he’s since knocked it down to 308. Even more, he has a renewed interest in the game.
“My first year out, I couldn’t watch football, but after a while, I couldn’t keep the TV off,” he said. “I got that itchy feeling, but now I gotta watch it, I gotta watch. The last few years, the things going through my life — football is my life, and it is how it feeds my family. … People are always saying that I’m a bust. I want to show them I’m not. I’m committed to this now.”
At 27, Russell is no longer a young player with promise. He has a long road ahead of him to get back into playing shape and get the mental focus needed to play in the NFL.
But that journey has officially started.