Living Legends: Where are they now?
The only No. 1 draft pick in the last decade to be out of the league.
That’s not the most gleaming description, but it’s what former LSU and Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell encounters. Russell has been out of the NFL since the Raiders released him in 2009, bringing a sad — though head-scratching — story to close.
In 31 games during the course of three seasons in Oakland, Russell tossed just 18 touchdowns to 23 interceptions and reportedly had trouble keeping his weight down. His dormant career cost the Raiders close to $40 million and set the franchise back years.
That’s what makes the whole Russell saga so baffling. He was so bad in the NFL after such a standout career on the Bayou. Russell earned All-SEC honors at LSU, a SEC championship and Sugar Bowl MVP honors. The Mobile, Ala., native had a 21-4 record in his four-year career in Baton Rouge.
The talent didn’t plague Russell, however. Problems away from the field did.
“The best Pro Day I ever saw as a quarterback was JaMarcus Russell,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told Dan Patrick in 2010. “I’ve never seen a quarterback throw the football like that in my life, but I still couldn’t take him in the first round — the guy doesn’t care about football. He doesn’t have the passion for the game, doesn’t have the work ethic, I don’t want him. But by the way, it was a pretty impressive Pro Day.”
Now, five years removed from the league, Russell appeared in a recent Dish network commercial with fellow NFL busts Matt Leinart, Brian Bosworth and Heath Shuler. He also added a failed comeback attempt to his resume
According to FOX Sports, Russell worked out with former NFL signal-caller Jeff Garcia last summer to improve his mechanics and drop weight. After months of training, Russell lost 51 pounds to make his target weight of 265 — the weight at which he entered the NFL in 2007.
Knee issues and an inability to stay consistent in his improved mechanics led to no NFL calls after a workout with the Chicago Bears last spring.
Russell has tried to change, however. The attempted comeback wasn’t just to an attempt to erase his status as the biggest bust in NFL history. He needed a job, and that’s what football’s been to him. What gets at him the most, though, is the assertions he doesn’t love the game.
“The last few years, the things going through my life, football is my job, and it is how it feeds my family. People would say [that] I didn’t love the game, but that pisses me off,” Russell told Yahoo! Sports. “People don’t know the real you, but I want people to know the real me and see what I can do. People are always saying that I’m a bust. I want to show them I’m not. I’m committed to this now.”
Russell’s made his share of mistakes, but he longs to make amends — both in the league and in life.
“I’m not looking for a pat on the shoulder from people who haven’t been there for me,” Russell told the website.