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JaMarcus Russell reflects on his failed NFL career

In 2007, the then-Oakland Raiders selected LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick in the draft.

That did not go well.

Over three NFL seasons, Russell completed 52.1% of his passes (354 of 680) for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, and a passer rating of 65.2. His 2008 season was actually decent, as he completed 198 of 368 passes for 2,423 yards, 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a passer rating of 77.1. But in 2009. Russell was benched by head coach Tom Cable (who had replaced Lane Kiffin the year before), and the team released him in May, 2010. Aside from a few efforts to stay in the league, we never heard from Russell in an NFL context again.

Now known as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, Russell  went through what happened on the latest episode of The Pivot Podcast with former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor.

(Warning: NSFW language)

“At LSU, my coach (Nick Saban in 2004, and Les Miles in 2005 and 2006) wanted to coach me,” Russell recalled. “[They] wanted me to do well. Others around me as well. In Oakland, I didn’t feel that. [Quarterbacks coach] John DeFilippo and [Offensive coordinator] Greg Knapp wanted me to succeed, but once we had a coaching change, everything switched.

“I didn’t feel like they were there for me. The guy they have there now, Derek Carr, they’re for him… They just went and got him a receiver [Davante Adams] that will catch anything thrown to him. If you put Tom Brady or Peyton Manning on one of those teams I was on, what do you think would happen?”

Well. The Raiders of that time were not stacked with superstars for Russell to target, but Zach Miller was a pretty fair tight end, and Louis Murphy was an underrated receiver for a while. Regarding Manning and Brady… well, how many times have we seen Brady in particular excel with less than spectacular receivers?

Russell also addressed questions about his work ethic, which was made apparent when his weight ballooned.

“I wasn’t doing crazy [expletive.] I was trying to chill, relax and win football games. Unfortunately, I wasn’t winning. I was dealt a bullshit hand. I was at practice and these guys couldn’t catch a reverse, much less a 90-yard bomb.”

As the conversation progressed, Russell at least started to take responsibility for his former professional failures.

“Everything that went wrong, I take fault in it. I’m not asking for a pity party from nobody, under any circumstances. What happened, happened. Let’s move on. Football doesn’t last forever. It gave me a great start on life. I’m not mad at nobody. I have no reason to be. Al Davis blessed me.

“I was a young kid. I was learning to be a professional athlete and a grown man. After that ended, I learned quicker because I had more time…I lost two uncles right before my rookie season started. I was [expletive] up. [Expletive] wasn’t going right. and it took a toll on me. Looking back now, I was reaching out for help.”

Crowder, Clark, and Taylor asked Russell about how it feels to be labeled ont of the biggest draft mistakes in pro football history.

“My [expletive] didn’t turn out how I wanted it to, or not how they expected it to,” said Russell. “But if you’re going to call me a ‘bust’, put ‘biggest’ on that [expletive] then. That does not bother me. That is not in my world. It doesn’t apply to anything I have going on.

“I regret that I wasn’t about to become the football player that I once wanted to be as a child. Some [expletive] like Dan Marino. I regret that I couldn’t be that guy. Forget who everyone else wanted me to be, it was about who I wanted to be for myself.”

How is the 36-year-old Russell doing now?

“I’m doing well and I’m living life,” he said. “Keep me in your prayers and I’ll keep you in mine. I don’t want for nothing. I haven’t for a long time and it’s going to stay that way. I might have played three years, but those three years are going to cover a lifetime and more.

“My pivot was after football, to becoming a human being again. You have to recalibrate that. I’m still working on becoming a better person day-by-day.”

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