Bust. Disappointment. The worst draft pick of all time.
On Sunday, ESPN aired a story on Russell titled “Jamarcus Russell, Waking Up.” The video covers Russell’s football career, from his promising beginnings in high school and college to his fall from grace in the NFL—all the way up to his recently announced comeback.
The story features interviews from the people who were present during different stages of Russell’s life, contributing their take on the young man from Mobile, Ala. and how he came to this point in his life.
Former Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin talks about the pressure that mounted on Russell and about how he had wanted to draft Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson instead of the big standout quarterback out of LSU. Mentor and former teammate Jeff Garcia frankly declares that the former No. 1 draft pick had zero work ethic before being released from the Raiders.
“Waking Up” doesn’t try to pull punches or paint Russell as a victim—mentioning his heavy weight, but the story does look to humanize an individual whom many people (myself included) have used as a punch line in the past.
Interviews with Russell and his mother, Zina, reveal a young man who lost his only father figure—his uncle, Ray—shortly after entering the NFL. Russell’s emotions cannot hide when begins to talk about Uncle Ray—the biggest stabilizing force in the young man’s life—and how badly he needed him in those pressure-filled days leading up to his second NFL season.
Through all the tears and sweat, “Waking Up” is a story that touches on a universal level that transcends football. It speaks to us through Russell’s mistakes and gives anyone who has ever gone down the wrong path hope for the chance at finding their way again.
For more on Russell's comeback, visit Bleacher Report for exclusive training footage and in-depth coverage as we follow his day-by-day fight to shed weight and make it back into the NFL.
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