While Marshawn Lynch’s retirement has shocked a lot of people, what about the retirement of JaMarcus Russell? Remember him? Dude won a national championship at LSU, was the top pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and was poised for NFL greatness. Instead, he was done after 31 games in three seasons.
Of course, Russell didn’t retire from the NFL; the NFL retired him.
Is he at peace with the way his career unfolded?
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Showtime correspondent and Sports Illustrated executive editor Jon Wertheim said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “On the one hand, he’s not ashamed. He says, ‘Look, I played in the NFL, I made my money, I kept my money.’ He lives in this huge house on Mobile Bay. But I think there’s also a level of disappointment. Part of him thinks, ‘You know what? I made it, I was a starting NFL quarterback, I got my millions – I got no regrets.’ And then a few sentences later, you can tell that there’s really sort of this disappointment in the situation, in the Raiders’ organization and also in himself for how he handled it. He’s 30 years old – the same age as Marshawn Lynch – and this guy hasn’t played a down of organized football since 2009.”
Indeed, Russell never got a second chance with another franchise, which is extremely uncommon for quarterbacks, especially quarterbacks drafted so high.
“As big a league as it is, it gets small in a hurry and his reputation circled pretty quickly,” Wertheim explained. “He did not leave on the best of terms, and he would admit this. It didn’t help that there was an arrest after his third season. But this guy, again, was the No. 1 pick. At the Combine, people were saying, ‘This is arm strength we’ve never seen before. This is a quarterback in a linebacker’s body.’ Not even a flier for a training camp invite? We’re talking about the loneliest of second chances, and it just never came his way. I think there’s a part of him that sort of has kept the dream.”
Russell threw 18 touchdowns with 23 interceptions and 25 fumbles in his career. He could have played in the Canadian Football League or the Arena Football League to prove himself to NFL teams but elected not to.
“He basically said, ‘I’m going to stay home until the phone rings,’” Wertheim said. “I think that was a tactical mistake. If he had taken a year off, gotten his head on straight and gone to Canada, I think that would have helped his chance.”