Vince Lombardi once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
Everyone fails at some point. But the successful people pick themselves back up, dust off and get back to work. It’s not easy, and evidence indicates that if you’re a rich millionaire you could be convinced to just hang out and count your money instead.
JaMarcus Russell is trying to get back up off the ground and give football another shot. The fact that he’s making the effort itself makes this a success in many ways. That he’s had one tryout with the Chicago Bears with a second one potentially on the horizon with the Baltimore Ravens, according to ESPN, makes it even more so.
Many first-round busts have walked away from football and never looked back. Sometimes the NFL was equally interested in walking away from that player (goodbye, Ryan Leaf), but often the player in question took their enormous paycheck and headed home.
Russell isn’t doing that—or, at least, he isn’t anymore.
After having some financial issues a couple of years back, Russell has decided to give the NFL another shot if it’ll have him.
Russell has reportedly dropped 50 pounds, weighing in toward the end of May at 265 pounds, down from 315. That’s exactly what he weighed back in 2007 when he was taken first overall by the Oakland Raiders.
Today's JaMarcus Russell update: He's down to 265 pounds. He began his latest comeback at 315. Still work to be done. #progress— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 28, 2013
His arm strength hasn’t tapered off and he is working very hard, including logging time with former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia at the TEST Academy in California.
To the surprise of nobody who watched him in Oakland, Garcia told NFL.com that Russell’s biggest issue was focus.
"Physically, he didn't lose much as to where he was four years ago," said Garcia, the former NFL signal-caller, who added "it was more the mindset" that needed repairing.
"Mentally, was the state where we needed to get him back to thinking football, speaking football, knowing football, being a student of the game. I don't know if that's ever been part of his background, to be a student of the game. That's where he needs to get to. He needs to sleep, eat, drink football. It can't be anything else if he wants this bad enough."
Bleacher Report has chronicled some of Russell’s journey and focused on his efforts to improve some of his mechanics, as well as overcome concerns about his weight and attitude.
The Bears have passed (as of now) on Russell, and the tryout that the 2007 No. 1 overall pick spoke of with the Ravens has not materialized. Of course, we haven’t hit training camp yet, and once that happens, it could only take an injury or two before teams come calling in need of someone to back their quarterback up.
Russell’s strong arm and experience is bound to tempt someone to at least see what they can develop with him on the bench. Sure, that experience was a debacle at the time, but even that can be valuable to a team, especially for younger players who can learn how not to handle an NFL career.
Heck, in a league where some NFL teams reportedly offered soccer star David Beckham a tryout, according to the Daily Mirror, how can Russell not get some play?
However, even if Russell doesn’t happen to find a new NFL home, this effort itself is a success.
If he ends up without an NFL job but in shape and with a better mental attitude and work ethic, then it’s a worthwhile and successful venture.
The fact that he has come so far is really a success by itself.
Andrew Garda is the former NFC North lead writer and a current NFL analyst and video personality for Bleacher Report. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.