The first pick of the 2007 NFL draft, JaMarcus Russell, was once at the top of the football world, but that quickly ended when he was flung into the starting position for a then atrocious Oakland Raiders.
Russell, with his fair share of troubles off the field, was eventually benched by the Raiders, then released. Facing criticism for his lack of leadership, athletic ability and dedication to the sport, Russell was never able to crawl out from under all the criticism he faced.
The arc of his life is detailed in the recent article from Sports Illustrated, which tracked down Russell in Mobile, Ala., where he now lives. The report calls Russell the biggest washout in NFL history. It also reveals several surprises about Russel's life, such as how even his closest friends and family know very little about where he lives. Luring him out of virtual obscurity, the SI reporter sits down with Russel at a barber shop, which is locked up and closed down while Russell gets a haircut and defends himself from the insurmountable criticism that has piled up over the years.
He admits that he had fallen asleep during Raiders team meetings, but blames it on apnea. He says that he did gain weight, but also says he gains weight easily. He says that he failed a drug test for codeine because he was taking using cough syrup to combat his sleep apnea. He does not admit that he ever had a drug problem.
Regardless of what happened, it seems that Russell will never get another shot in the NFL. Teams simply can't trust him to lead their team and even guys like Kerry Collins and Carson Palmer, 38- and 31-years-old respectively, were chosen as backups this year rather than 26-year-old Russell.
But what may shed more light onto Russell's character is the fat that he spread much of his wealth around Mobile. He's bought innumerable Thanksgiving Day turkeys for the underprivileged, library books for local schools, uniforms for sports teams and gave a family $10,000 after their entire house hand burned down.
Russell has plans to try to garner some attention from NFL scouts. He's going to build a 50-yard turf field at his home in Alabama in addition to working out at LSU while taking classes in the spring (while pursuing the degree he never earned since he left for the NFL his junior year). When asked about whether he'd play in the Canadian Football League (CFL) Russell said, Name one kid in the world who says, 'I can't wait to play in the CFL!' That s--- don't work.
Though Russell may never touch an NFL playing field again, or, potentially, a professional field of any kind, it appears that he remains grateful about his experience and continues to enjoy what he has.
I live life without regret, JaMarcus says in the interview. ...my momma told me as long as I'm living and breathing, I got nothing to complain about.