Okay so a tiny back story, I was stuck between some QB’s to write this on and decided to ask for some help from our slack channel. I got a few responses but 2 caught my eye: Colt McCoy and JaMarcus Russell. I then decided to hold a vote to see who the Slack would prefer, and in typical SU fashion, it was a tie. So I held it again about 5 minutes after that and it was decided I was going to write about JaMarcus Russell. I did make a fairly big mess up and totally thought he went to Ohio State. Hands up, that’s on me, but I have a feeling the TBTQB next week will help my relationship with the Buckeye Fans. So, I present TBTQB: LSU’s JaMarcus Russell:
Now, as a SD (Won’t Accept LA) Charger fan, I remember vaguely seeing him play in the NFL. The most fond memory I have about him is Arm Strength. Mel Kiper Jr. still probably has butterflies in his stomach about his cannon of a right arm. HOWEVER, he totally took a 180 from his career at LSU. Horrible decision-making with his reads, a lack of footwork, and lack of accuracy all caused this once-in-a-lifetime QB to be ushered out of the NFL. He could have been an Excellent QB, and while he is still fairly “young” (32), I truly hope for the best for him in his career, even if he did rock the Black and Silver or Gold and Purple.
(Sorry this looks like it was recorded on by a dented tuna can, it’s all I could find, people normally remember him for his college highlights anyways)
JaMarcus Russell attended Lillie B. Williamson High School. For all four years Russell started and never missed a football game. In his freshman year, Russell completed 180-of-324 passes for 2,683 yards and 20 touchdowns as Williamson reached the state championship game. By the start of his next season, he had grown to 6’3, 195 pounds. (to put this into perspective, he was the same size as Russell Westbrook….as a 14-15 year old….). Russell passed for 2,616 yards and 20 touchdowns during his sophomore year, led the team to the state semifinals and started to leave an imprint on the recruiting scene. His best season would come in his last year as a Lion, he completed 219-of-372 passes for 3,332 yards and 22 touchdowns, and rushed for another 400 yards and five touchdowns. This earned Russell Parade magazine All-American honorable mention honors. His 10,774 career passing yards broke the Alabama High School Athletic Association record and still stands today.
He looked like a Man among boys, and his stats told the same story. In the recruiting world, he was slapped with the 5-Star ranking and listed as a 6’5, 225 QB. He was ranked in the top 100 of players and top 5 for QB’s in the 2003 Class. The Pro-Style QB had offers from Auburn, FSU, Florida, Tennessee, and LSU. After 6 visits to Louisiana State University, he signed his LOI and was off to grow from a Lion to a Tiger.
Russell red-shirted his True Freshman year, and when it came to the 2004 season, he had the reigns of the LSU offense. In his first season as the Play Caller, he lead the tigers to a 10-1 season, a SEC West Title, and a Top 5 ranking. Posting a 2,443 yards and 15 touchdowns. Russell received an honorable mention on the AP’s All-SEC Team.
The most notable games from that season would both be come from behind wins, coming against ASU and Bama
The ASU games is considered as the turning point in his career, and showed that he did has a skill set that could translate to the NFL. Driving the Tigers down the field against a then dominant Sundevil Defense, Russell showed he deserved some national attention.
And of course, whenever a QB can beat Bama, it’s considered a big win. This one coming in overtime after a big time throw from Russell to Dwayne Bowe. Russell drops back and goes through his read, but they are all swallowed up. After he starts moving slowly towards the right sideline, delivers a fastball on a comeback route to Bowe, and wins it for the Tigers. This is one of the many key plays that show off his arm talent with the velocity of this ball thrown.
Russell would end up missing the SEC championship due to a shoulder injury and be replaced by Matt Flynn, who would go on to lead the TIgers to a 40-3 victory.
In his Junior Year, he would win out in a QB Competition between then QB’s Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux. A Notable change for Russell would be that he swapped out the 4 on his jersey for a 2. Russell had an outstanding season, leading the Tigers to a 10–2 record and a BCS Sugar Bowl berth. He threw for 3,129 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was second in the SEC with 2,923 yards from scrimmage. Russell also won the SEC Offensive Player of the Week award three times during the regular season.
The Tigers would earn a trip to the BCS Sugar Bowl, and face off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Russell accumulated over 350 yards of passing and rushing combined and scored three touchdowns, leading LSU to a 41–14 win over Notre Dame. In doing so, he earned the honor of being Named MVP of the Sugar Bowl
Shortly after the season ended, Russell announced he would forgo his Senior year and head for the NFL. (He did not choose wisely… for my Indiana Jones fans)
Coming out of LSU, Russell was praised as one of the best pure arm talents seen due to the strength and play making. Due to his arm and size (6’6, 265), he was the projected number 1 overall pick. He was a very rare combination of size and talent, and at the time, whatever team that drafted him would surely strike gold.
The Oakland Raiders had the Number 1 pick, and decided to roll the dice on Russell.
(As I was doing research, I came across this story and it was too good not to share…)
In 2015, Matt Millen said in a radio interview that he warned former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis not to draft Russell in 2007. According to Millen, Russell struggled to pay attention during a pre-draft interview in his office during a visit to Detroit which had the No. 2 pick that year to the point where Millen kicked Russell out after he kept looking down at his watch.
“I keep talking to him, I ask him questions and he looks at his watch,” Millen said. “I said, ‘You got some place you need to be?’ And he goes, ‘Oh, no, no, no. I’m sorry. Sorry, sir.’ So I ask him another question, he looks at his watch and I said, ‘You’re done, get out of here.” Millen said he then told Russell to go to see head coach Rod Marinelli, who later also told Russell to leave his office. “So I’m done, I can’t believe what I just witnessed, and so I call Al,” Millen said, “I get on the phone and I say, ‘Coach, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but don’t take JaMarcus Russell. Don’t take Calvin Johnson, but don’t take JaMarcus Russell.”
Russell’s NFL career would not start out on the right foot. After failing to reach a contract agreement with the Raiders, Russell held out through training camp and into the first week of the 2007 NFL season, until September 12, when he signed a six-year contract. After the hold out was over, then Head Coach at the time and Student Union favorite Lane Kiffin stated that he would not immediately start Russell. “That way we can really control what he is doing, play for this set amount of time for this many plays. He doesn’t have to have everything mastered,” He had missed all of training camp including critical one on one time in the QB room. This caused other QB’s on the team to be placed in front of him as he had to learn the ropes of the Raiders Offense.
Russell would get his first snaps in December of the 2007 season against the Broncos, Coming into the game in the second quarter in relief of starter Josh McCown. Russell played two series, and completed 4 of 7 pass attempts for 56 yards. In a final game against the Chargers, Russell would have a poor performance, with 2 INT’s and a fumble. He also got injured and was carted off the field.
The next season, after the disastrous 2007 season, Russell was named starter for the opening game against the Broncos. The Raiders would end up losing this game 41-14, but he did show a glimmer of hope. A new Pocket mentality and improved mechanics, Russell completed 17 of 26 pass attempts for 180 yards and also threw for 2 touchdowns, finishing with a passer rating of 111.1. He would go through the rest of the season trading hot and cold streaks, and would finish with around 2500 yards, 13 TD’s 8 INTs with 200 Yards in the ground and another 3 TD’s.
The 2009 season would end on a very poor note for Russell. He started the season as the Starter for the Raiders, but was subsequently benched for poor performances. He’d get one more shot in the Black and Silver towards the end of the season, but it was like trying to put out a forest fire with a water gun. He finished the 2009 season with the lowest quarterback rating, lowest completion percentage, fewest passing touchdowns, and fewest passing yards among qualifying quarterbacks in the NFL.
(The fact that this video is only 2 minutes long explains a lot about his last season.)
He would be released during the off-season and would never be given a shot in the NFL again. He has attempted many come backs and has requested try outs from multiple teams, but reports of him being overweight and just the lack of any professional snaps in 7-8 years have kept teams away.
Man, J-Rock could have been one of the greatest QB’s to rock the scene in the NFL. The size is off the charts with the man being the same size as Forwards in the NBA. I Believe that if he had worked on Accuracy and mental decision/toughness, he could have truly succeeded in the league. However, he did have an electric College career and will always be remembered for that. So Thank You JaMarcus, for not only making your highlights and college career fun to watch, but not giving up on your dreams of being an NFL QB and showing dedication to the greatest sport in the world.