Size Does Matter

JaMarcus Russell's poised to be top pick in draft thanks in part to his large frame

April 26, 2007

By Adam Caparell



ADAM CAPARELL

Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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CSTV.com

 

Following the Sugar Bowl, JaMarcus Russell, just like every other underclassman with NFL dreams, submitted his name to the league's evaluating committee to see where he stood in the eyes of the professionals.

 

They told him the obvious.

 

"They said first round," said Russell, the larger than life LSU quarterback.

 

With a 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame and what may be the strongest arm in the entire NFL, the league was conservative with its estimates of his draft prospects. After all, the guy is No. 1 material and maybe he was just meant for this big moment.

 

Ever since age six, when Russell first remembers throwing a football, he's played quarterback. And ever since he can remember, he's towered over his peers and pretty much outperformed them. 

 

"I was always bigger and taller than the other kids. I was always able to throw it a pretty good length of the field," Russell said.

 

It's no wonder why he believes his size is his best attribute. A chip off the old block, Russell's father - Bobby Lloyd, a former basketball and football player - is a big man himself standing in at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds.  So NFL execs can thank his genes when he bounces off pass rushers who your average quarterback would never be able to withstand.

 

"It's a lot of when you've got big guys trying to tackle you and you're really not falling. You're still able to make plays," Russell said. "I'm bigger than most of the guys out there."

 

But it just may be that arm of his that intrigues NFL-types the most.

 

Russell can throw the ball 40 yards sitting down and has said his personal best is 84 yards. He had arguably the top arm in college football last year and will enter the NFL with one of the best.

 

It's those skill-sets, sky-high potential and his performance against Notre Dame--Russell shredded the Irish defense and out-played fellow top quarterback Brady Quinn--that has shot him to the forefront of everyone's draft board.

 

But how many would have pegged Russell as the top pick in the 2007 draft a few seasons ago, let alone last September?

 

Earning the reputation of a somewhat untrustworthy quarterback during his first few seasons with the Tigers, Russell began the season not even considered among the nation's 10 best signal callers.

 

After winning the starting job over Matt Flynn his sophomore season, Russell threw for just 15 TDs and nine interceptions in 311 attempts. But he showed great improvement in 2006, especially as his junior season wore on. Throwing for 3,129 yards, 28 TDs and only nine picks, Russell cemented his status as one of the SEC's best QBs, especially after LSU's final loss of the season against Florida in Gainesville.

 

Against the Gators, Russell threw three picks as LSU limped back to Baton Rouge, 23-10 losers. From then on, it was smooth sailing. Russell would throw only four interceptions during the Tigers seven game winning streak (with three coming in one game) that saw them beat the likes of Arkansas and Tennessee on the road.

 

Then came the scintillating performance in the Sugar Bowl where he shined like no other.

 

In front of a decidedly pro LSU crowd in the Superdome - hosting its first major sports event since Hurricane Katrina - Russell had a coming out party like few others. Throwing for 332 yards on 21-of-34 passing for 2 touchdowns ­- another rushing - Russell embarrassed the Irish and put his cannon on display all night.

 

"I've been through a few games where things probably didn't go too well," Russell said. "Sometimes you get recognition, sometime you don't. So I'm just happy that at the end of the season everybody got the chance to see me."

 

Over 77,000 poured into the refurbished stadium to watch the 41-14 blowout while the rest of the nation tuned in on television where you could practically hear the cash register ringing with every completion and touchdown Russell threw.  

 

"Things went good for a couple of years, but just to have a big bowl game, you know, it's such a big-caliber game to some people. I guessed it pushed me up real high," Russell said.

 

Immediately after the game, speculation began about Russell's future. Would he return to LSU for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft where he had quickly been pegged as the top pick, immediately leapfrogging over Quinn?  

 

That was followed by the chatter about a supposed rivalry between the two. After all, Russell not only took that bowl game away from Quinn, but also his dreams of being the No. 1 pick in the draft.

 

But Russell insists there's no animosity.

 

"I'm happy for him and everything he does. I wish him the best of luck," Russell said. "But my main thing is I'm just happy to be here myself. Sometimes people don't get the opportunity, the chances in life, to be mentioned as the first pick in the NFL Draft. I'm just overwhelmed by it and very happy for it."

 

But Russell claims he doesn't care where he ends up being picked. First, second or wherever, it makes no difference to Russell.

 

"To tell you the truth, my main thing is just getting an opportunity to go out and showcase my skills of football at the next level," Russell said. "There really won't be disappointment. Everybody doesn't get the chance to go as high as No. 1 or No. 2. I'll be more than happy whatever position I go in."

 

But he figures to be the top pick. With Oakland the owners of the first selection - and with a glaring need at quarterback - Russell has been in the Raiders' sights since the moment news first broke that he was leaving school early. Franchise quarterbacks are hard to come by, and while being a top pick is never a guarantee of future success, Oakland would be hard pressed not to bet on Russell. After all, you can't teach some of the skill sets he's got going for him.