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JaMarcus Russell Says He'd Play in NFL for Free in Sports Illustrated Exclusive

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2016

Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell rolls out during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009. Oakland beat Denver 20-19. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell hasn't played an NFL down since 2009, but the former Oakland Raiders draft bust is willing to sacrifice to return to the league.

In a Sports Illustrated film released Tuesday, the 30-year-old former No. 1 overall pick said he wants to play in the NFL so badly he would do so without compensation:

Russell said he's willing to start at the bottom to get back into the league.

"Whatever it is—I can be a water boy and work my way into a scouting team. It doesn't matter. I'll go play for free," he said.

The clip also shows a letter the quarterback sent to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones asking for a chance to play and sharing what he's learned after being labeled a "bust" and "lazy" as the "target of many insults by the media":

I am willing to work my way in and up. I am willing to lead the scout team for free for one year just to get experience in your system. I want to learn the playbook, sit under the proper tutelage and learn from your coaching staff. After that time, if you see fit to allow me to stay with the Cowboys organization, I would be eternally grateful.

[...]

My tribulations have humbled me. I am a better man because of my struggles and I simply desire an opportunity to redeem myself. I do not want my legacy to be a trail of unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities.

Russell spent three seasons with the Raiders after they took him with the top pick in the 2007 NFL draft, going 7-18 in just 25 career starts.

He completed a mere 52.1 percent of his passes for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions before his release.

Although Russell attempted an NFL comeback in 2013 and earned a workout with the Chicago Bears, it didn't lead to a spot on an NFL roster.

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That Russell has resurfaced so close to draft time is fitting considering quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are the likely top two picks, and they'll be burdened with the same type of pressure to be a franchise savior that Russell was.

The former Raider didn't come close to living up to expectations, and his desire to make good on that failure has been questionable at times, as evidenced by his weight issues and a 2010 arrest for possession of a controlled substance (codeine syrup).

He was an immensely talented player, however, who could have been a star in the NFL. Over three seasons at LSU, he threw 52 touchdowns against 21 interceptions, ending his college career with an Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Brady Quinn and Notre Dame.

The NFL is a quarterback-starved league currently searching for quality signal-callers, but with veterans such as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer still on the free-agent market entering the draft, it is difficult to envision a team taking a gamble on the former No. 1 selection at this time.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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