JaMarcus Russell is largely considered to be the biggest bust in National Football History.
When the former first-overall pick graced the field at Tiger Stadium on Saturdays at LSU, he looked to be a star in the making, as he was often the best player on the field. In his three seasons in Baton Rouge, Russell threw for 52 touchdowns that included 28 in his junior season.
Whatever fire he had in college died as soon as he got his first contract from the NFL, after the Raiders drafted him No. 1 in the 2007 NFL draft. His NFL dream was limited to three subpar seasons.
The former NFL quarterback wrote an article for The Players’ Tribune on Tuesday detailing his journey after the NFL.
“I wasn’t supposed to be (expletive),” he writes. “Man, I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I’m talking here here. I shattered every expectation for my life.
“I was Mr. Football for the whole state of Alabama.
“I brought Nick Saban to the neighborhood.
“I got millions to wear some Nike shoes. And to play the game I love.
“I was the second Black quarterback to go No. 1, after Mike Vick.
“I ain’t no failure.
“I’m a King.
Russell explained that the age of 14 is when he first tried cough medicine, which, at the time, was used as a recreational drug. Playing football meant he got a lot of aches and pain, so he wanted more of the codeine-infused drink.
He used it to numb the pains of football in the SEC. He shared a story of pouring some in a cup for a 10 a.m. class at LSU and how a fellow classmate told on him. However, Russell said the school swept the issue under the rug.
“It ain’t for fun, you feel me? I’m in pain, and that’s just how I knew to deal with it,” he writes. “I was honest with the coaches about what was going on, and they knew me as a person, so they handled it quietly. I did my punishment, which was not attending the bowl game, and we kept it movin’.”
His love for football started to end once his two uncles died (of heart failure and a heart attack).
“My first two seasons in Oakland, I was still learning how to be a professional. But then right before the 2009 season, the wheels really came off. It’s one thing to lose football games, it’s another thing to lose your people.
“I lost two of my uncles in the span of three months.”
“I’m not gonna lie to you,” he writes. “I was staying up late, drinking, getting tattoos and (expletive). I didn’t have any time to grieve. I remember getting to training camp and warming up out on the field before practice and just crying and crying. Tears just falling out of my face, like — (expletive) man. In front of everybody.”
The end would soon begin in 2009, when the Raiders’ quarterback coach called him into a QB meeting.
“I said, ‘Excuse me, sir. I’m not trying to be funny or anything, but watch how you’re talking to me. My mom and dad don’t even talk to me like that. I never lost this much in my life. I’m just as mad as anybody. Either you can talk to me with respect, like I know a player and a coach should, or we can sit here and bitch and (expletive) each other all day. It doesn’t make a difference to me.”
Russell says things got real quiet until he slammed the table. “I pointed at him, and I said, ‘Now, (expletive), that’s how you talk to me from now on.’
“I haven’t started a football game since.”
After the Raiders released Russell in May 2010, he lost himself. However, he eventually found his way with coaching, because he felt he could help all those kids who had a similar mindset to what he had growing up. “It’s funny man. These kids… they just wanna know, how do I get some money?” Russell wrote.
Like the kids, Russell wanted to provide for his family as well.
“They [the kids] don’t look at me like a bust,” Russell wrote. “They look at me like a miracle. … I went No. 1. I got paper. I had coaches coming down here, eating my grandma’s cooking. I changed my family’s circumstances forever.”
To read the piece in its entirety, check out The Player Tribune.