Every couple years, former Raiders super bust JaMarcus Russell seems to pop up again, hoping he can get back into the NFL's good graces. And there is usually a major sports outlet standing by to do an expose on him. This time it was Sports Illustrated who caught up with the much maligned former number one overall pick.
One of the more interesting parts of the interview was how a year ago at this time, Russell sent letters to NFL teams to plead with them to give him a shot, going as far as to say he'd willing to "lead the scout team for free for one year just to get experience in your system." Those were his exact words in a letter SI revealed he had sent to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Russell wavers on several issues. From saying he is happy with his life now and has put football behind him, he talks about wanting to make a comeback, and how he doesn't want his legacy to be of missed opportunities and broken dreams. And he goes from saying he takes the blame for how the media portrayed him (a strange turn of phrase in and of itself) to continuing to say it was partially the fault of the Raiders organization.
"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," said Russell in the letter. "I've been labeled as a bust, I have been labeled as lazy and I have been the targets of many insults by the media. The blame for any negative press that I've received rested squarely on my shoulders. When I was initially drafted into the NFL as a number one overall pick there were enormous expectations heaped upon me. It did not help that I went to a struggling team that lacked infrastructure and veteran leadership. It also did not help that I was 20 years old and became a millionaire overnight."
There is a lot of truth to this, actually. The Raiders did lack infastructure -- something the new regime as well as the new-new coaching staff set out to change/improve. But the fact that the team was struggling is kind of a big 'no duh'. He WAS the number one overall pick. Teams who have the number one overall pick are struggling. Usually the reason for that is the lack of a viable starting quarterback.
Also it's a bit of a head scratcher that a person who worked his way to living his NFL dream, entered the draft, saw the dream realized, would then suddenly be shocked by the enormity of the expectations that came along with that.
Clearly these letters didn't have any NFL teams banging on his door. If that were to happen, it would have been back in 2013 when he attempted a comeback and supposedly had interest from several teams. He even scheduled a pro day, but when teams were reluctant to attend due to the press that would go with it, he canceled the pro day, opting instead for team visits.
It appeared possible we could see Russell in an NFL training camp. Then the Raiders settled a $3 million lawsuit with him and *poof* he disappeared again. Russell was said to be broke, which prompted the comeback attempt in the first place. Suddenly becoming a millionaire again appeared to have sent him back to the couch just as it did when he was originally drafted.
Russell is now 9 years removed from the day he had his name called at the top of the 2007 draft. He will turn 31 in August, so perhaps this is the last 'comeback' piece we will see. One can only hope.