JaMarcus Trenell Russell (born August 9, 1985) is a former American football quarterback. He played college football at LSU, where he finished 21–4 as a starter and was named MVP of the 2007 Sugar Bowl. The Oakland Raiders then selected Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Russell held out until the Raiders signed him to a contract worth $61 million, with $32.5 million guaranteed.
Russell with the Raiders in 2008
|Born:||August 9, 1985|
|Height:||6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)|
|Weight:||260 lb (118 kg)|
|High school:||Williamson (Mobile, Alabama)|
|NFL Draft:||2007 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Russell played three seasons with the Raiders, compiling a 7–18 record as a starter, and threw just 18 touchdowns compared to his 38 turnovers. Due to his inconsistent play, the Raiders released him in May 2010. He is often ranked as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
Russell was born in Mobile, Alabama, and attended Lillie B. Williamson High School. For all four years under head coach Bobby Parrish, he 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 next season, Russell had grown to six-foot-three and 185 pounds, had received his first recruiting letters and was becoming more adept with the playbook. Russell passed for 2,616 yards and 20 touchdowns during his sophomore year and led the team to the semifinals.
Russell's best season was his senior year; 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.
|Name||Hometown||High school / college||Height||Weight||40‡||Commit date|
|Mobile, Alabama||Williamson HS||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)||223 lb (101 kg)||4.76||Jul 8, 2003|
|Recruiting star ratings: Scout: Rivals: 247Sports: N/A|
|Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 4 (QB); 2 (school) Rivals: 6 (QB); 79 (national); 3 (LA); 1 (school)|
Freshman and sophomore seasons
In February 2003 on National Signing Day, Russell committed to Louisiana State University (LSU) over Florida State University, becoming the LSU Tigers' 28th and final recruit of the 2003 season. He redshirted his freshman year and by the fall of the 2005 season, Russell was the starting quarterback. He led the Tigers to a 10–1 regular season record, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Western Division title, and a top five ranking going into the SEC Championship Game. He also improved statistically, completing 60 percent of his passes for 2,443 yards and 15 touchdowns. Russell received an honorable mention on the AP's All-SEC Team.
Russell led the Tigers to two come-from-behind wins in the regular season. The first came on a 39-yard pass to Early Doucet on 4th down in the final minute of the game, as the Tigers defeated Arizona State 35–31. Later in the season, LSU defeated a then-undefeated Alabama team 16–13 when he completed a 14-yard touchdown to Dwayne Bowe in overtime.
Russell injured his shoulder in a loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and missed the team's bowl game. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn replaced him for the Peach Bowl against Miami, and the Tigers won the game 40–3.
Russell was the starting quarterback again at LSU in 2006, beating out Matt Flynn and highly touted redshirt freshman Ryan Perrilloux. Before the season began, he changed his jersey number from 4 to 2. He had a productive 2006 regular 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.
During one game against Tennessee, Russell started the game poorly, throwing three interceptions (including one that was returned for a touchdown), but subsequently led LSU on a 15-play, 80-yard comeback drive in the end the game. At the end of the drive, Russel threw a touchdown pass to Early Doucet while there was less than 10 seconds left. As a result, LSU won 28–24. In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, he accumulated over 350 yards of passing and rushing combined and scored three touchdowns, leading LSU to a 41–14 win over Notre Dame. For his performance, he was named Sugar Bowl MVP.
At the end of the 2006 season, Russell was named to the all-SEC first team, ahead of Kentucky's Andre Woodson and Florida's Chris Leak. In addition, he was named an honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated.
|Ht||Wt||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||10-yd split||20-yd split||20-ss||3-cone||Vert jump||Broad||Wonderlic|
|6 ft 5 1⁄2 in
|32 3⁄4 in
|9 7⁄8 in
|4.72 s||1.67 s||2.78 s||31 in
|Values were taken at LSU Pro Day.|
John Clayton of ESPN stated that Russell's workouts at the 2007 NFL Combine that his arm strength and size impressed several teams, and predicted that it would "be hard to pass up on Russell at #1." At the combine, Russell stated about his size, "I've been playing quarterback ever since. I was always bigger and taller than the other kids, and I was always able to throw it a pretty good length of the field." Cleveland Browns General Manager Phil Savage said of Russell's abilities, "His talent is substantial. He's a rare combination of size and arm strength."
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."
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 worth up to $68 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed.
Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin did not immediately name Russell a starter, saying, "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," noting that Russell had missed all of training camp and other quarterbacks, like David Carr, should have been brought along more slowly.
Russell made his first professional appearance on December 2, 2007 against the Denver 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.
On December 23, 2007 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Russell threw his first career touchdown pass, a 2-yard pass to Zach Miller. He finished the game with seven completions on 23 pass attempts for 83 yards, with one touchdown pass, three interceptions and a lost fumble.
Russell made his first career start in the final game of the season against the San Diego Chargers. He was intercepted twice and lost a fumble, which led to 17 points off turnovers for the Chargers. After throwing his second interception, he did not initially get up off the field due to an injury, and he was taken to the locker room on a cart later in the game, after which he was replaced by Andrew Walter. In that first start, Russell completed 23 of 31 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a lost fumble.
Russell finished his rookie season with 36 completed passes on 66 attempts, 373 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. After the San Diego game, Kiffin named him the starting quarterback for the upcoming 2008 season.
Although Russell only played sparsely through the 2008 preseason, he showed small glimpses of his overall improvement as a pocket passer. His best game of the preseason came during week 2 against the Tennessee Titans where he completed 10 of 17 passes for 75 yards and one touchdown. During week 3, going against the Arizona Cardinals, he completed 14 of 28 passes, throwing for 180 yards while throwing one interception and no touchdowns in the 24-0 loss at home.
Russell was named the starter for the opening game of the 2008 season, which was against division rival, Denver Broncos. The Raiders defense failed to keep the Broncos out of the end zone while the offense was unable to get into the end zone until late in the game, putting him in a rough situation. The Raiders were beaten handily by the Denver Broncos in the 41-14 loss. 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 fumbled once early in the red zone while looking to complete a throw to Darren McFadden in the flat. The game showed both his professional aptitude and his inexperience as the Denver defensive schemes both confused and rushed him out of the pocket.
Next week against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders won 23–8. Russell passed for only 55 yards and completed 6-of-17 passes with no touchdowns or interceptions.
The next three weeks the Raiders lost against the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, and New Orleans Saints. Russell started all three games, but only threw a combined total of two touchdowns during that span.
In Week 7, the Raiders beat the New York Jets 16 – 13 in overtime. The win ended their four-game home losing streak. Russell completed 17-of-30 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown. It was head coach Tom Cable's first win as Raiders head coach. Russell led the team on a 43-yard drive to set up Janikowski's game winning kick.
The next four games were losses to the Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Miami Dolphins. A week after the Miami game, he led the Raiders to a 31–10 victory against Denver where he completed 10-of-11 passes for 152 yards and threw one touchdown.
In August, Russell was named starter of the Raiders. In a Week 5 loss to the New York Giants, Russell lost 3 fumbles and passed for 100 yards. Following a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on November 15, Russell was benched indefinitely by coach Tom Cable due to poor play in favor of Bruce Gradkowski. Gradkowski led two fourth quarter comebacks and upset the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers in the following two weeks, throwing 5 touchdown passes. After Gradkoswki was injured against the Washington Redskins, Russell finished the game for the Raiders, which resulted in a loss. After the game, coach Cable decided to start backup Charlie Frye rather than Russell, which moved Russell to #3 on the depth chart. When Frye was injured against the Denver Broncos Russell played near the end of the game. The game resulted in a win, however, this was Russell's final game as a Raider. 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.
In March of the 2010 offseason, NBC Sports described Russell as "annually and incredibly overweight", saying Russell, often criticized for a perceived lack of conditioning, arrived at mini-camp weighing 290 pounds, up from his initially reported weight of 271. By April, National Football Post reported him at 300 pounds. However, Cam Inman of the Oakland Tribune said that Russell had "a good first minicamp" and "is in great shape" in the team's first training camp in late April. In an interview during camp, Russell said "Today I'm going to keep coming out, compete for the job, work my tail off."
That same month, the Raiders traded for Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, which left the team with five quarterbacks on – Campbell, Russell, Frye, Gradkowski, and Kyle Boller. At the time, Raiders head coach Tom Cable said Russell could compete for the starting job. On May 6, 2010 the Raiders released Russell. One day later, Russell cleared waivers, making him an unrestricted free agent.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said on May 8, 2010 that the time was not right for the Saints to consider signing former LSU quarterback Russell, but added in that it's "newsworthy" when a high draft pick is released so soon, and stated that players like Russell often get a second chance in the NFL. However, due in part to concerns about his work ethic, he has never played another down in an NFL game.
The Raiders filed a grievance on May 28, 2010, seeking $9.55 million back from Russell for what was paid as salary advances for the 2010–12 NFL seasons. His agent said "The money in question was fully guaranteed. That is why Russell was forced to hold out and miss all of training camp as a rookie. The Raiders know that and this is our only comment."
On September 26, 2010, ESPN.com reported that Russell had moved to Houston, Texas, was working out with former NBA standout and head coach John Lucas, and was also consulting with him as a 'life coach.' Lucas went through numerous drug issues while a professional athlete, and has counseled others in similar situations after he retired as a player. The relationship was likely an attempt by Russell to eventually return to the NFL.
On November 15, 2010, Russell, who at the time was at 292 pounds, worked out for the Miami Dolphins with four other quarterbacks to replace an injured Chad Pennington on the Dolphins' roster. Patrick Ramsey was eventually signed.
In January 2011, Lucas attempted to arrange a meeting for Russell with Baltimore Ravens president Ozzie Newsome when the Ravens executive was in Mobile for the Senior Bowl; however, Newsome refused to meet with Russell.
In April 2011, Lucas, who had become frustrated with Russell's lack of work ethic, reportedly severed all ties with the quarterback and asked him to leave the Houston area.
2013 comeback attempt
In 2013, Russell stated that he was interested in returning to the NFL, and would train with various NFL players, including Marshall Faulk and Jeff Garcia, along with Olympian Ato Boldon. Russell's comeback attempt was documented by Bleacher Report in a series titled JaMarcus Russell's Road Back to the NFL.
In May 2013, it was announced Russell had returned to his rookie weight of 265 pounds. Interest from the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens had also been reported. Later on June 4, 2013, it was announced Russell would receive a tryout with the Bears. Three days later, Russell reportedly presented a "solid" performance in his try-out for the Bears while working out alongside fellow unemployed quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Jordan Palmer. The Bears did not sign him, stating they were not interested in adding a fourth quarterback to the roster. However, the Bears did sign both Edwards and Palmer two months later. Russell was not worked out or signed by any professional football team following the 2013 season or during the 2014 offseason.
2016 comeback attempt
In April 2016, it was reported that Russell had written letters to all 32 NFL teams asking for a tryout and pledging to play one year for free, although no team responded to this letter. Most professional football experts believe that it is not likely any NFL team would take any interest in Russell, since he had not played a meaningful down in seven years.
NFL.com's Steve Wyche claimed that Russell is the biggest draft bust in NFL history. The Huffington Post named him one of the 13 biggest draft busts of the 2000s. ESPN's Bill Williamson called Russell a "talented but extremely disappointing" quarterback.
In addition, Russell's 2009 passer rating of 50.0 was the lowest rating by a starting quarterback in the NFL since 1998. His final stats during his tenure as a Raider were 52.1% pass completion, 18–23 TD-INT ratio, a passer rating of 65.2, and fumbled 25 times, 15 of those were lost fumbles.
No Oakland player wore Russell's #2 during the regular season for several years after his release; only punter Marquette King donned it, during Oakland's 2012 preseason before being placed on season-ending injured reserve. In 2011, newly drafted quarterback Terrelle Pryor's request to wear #2 was turned down by then-coach Hue Jackson; it is widely believed that the Raiders did not want another highly touted quarterback wearing the same number as the disappointing Russell. However, in 2013 Raiders coach Dennis Allen allowed Pryor to trade numbers with King; he debuted on Oakland's practice field on August 21, 2013 wearing the jersey number he had worn at Ohio State.
Russell was born to Bobby Lloyd and Zina L. Russell-Anderson, a machine operator in a furniture factory and a law firm secretary, respectively.
His uncle Ray Ray Russell was a long-time DJ and radio host for the Mobile, Alabama-based station WBLX until his death in 2009. In 2011 his cousin DeAngelo Parker started Ray Ray's Chicken and Waffles franchise in honor of him in Mobile, Alabama.
Codeine syrup possession arrest
On July 5, 2010, Russell was arrested at his Mobile, Alabama home for being in possession of codeine syrup without a valid prescription. His arrest was the culmination of a two-month investigation that did not initially target Russell, but his name and address surfaced repeatedly during the investigation. Russell was bailed out, and a bond hearing was scheduled for July 7, 2010. At his July 20, 2010 arraignment, Russell pleaded 'not guilty' to a state felony charge of possession of a controlled substance. On October 29, 2010, a Mobile County grand jury declined to indict Russell on the charge of possession of codeine syrup without a prescription. By at least one account, the arrest severely diminished his prospects of catching on with another NFL team.
Rumors of "purple drank" use by Russell had been noted by local journalists for some time during his tenure with the Raiders, but not reported due to the lack of evidence or corroboration. In an interview with ESPN's Colleen Dominguez, Russell stated that he tested positive for codeine after he was selected by the Raiders in the 2007 NFL Draft.
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