One last night of normalcy
No. 1 pick Russell remains humble on eve of NFL draft
Posted: Saturday April 28, 2007 7:46PM; Updated: Tuesday May 1, 2007 2:59PM
NEW YORK -- JaMarcus Russell is making it rain.
Standing on a stage high above a crowd in club Sol in New York, Russell is wiping his hands toward the masses as if he were making dollar bills fly, while Fat Joe sings his hit song, "Make it Rain."
On his last night before becoming a multimillion-dollar NFL player, Russell laughs off a suggestion that he should actually make the club rain like some other NFL players. "I ain't rich yet," he said.
Russell, wearing all white and a diamond encrusted elephant medallion with "Bama Boy" written on it, spent Friday night with many of the other Class of 2007 NFL rookies, including Adrian Peterson, Gaines Adams, Calvin Johnson and Brady Quinn. But after Russell got off the stage with Fat Joe and finished chatting up NFL players such as Reggie Bush, Mario Williams, DeAngelo Hall and Steven Jackson -- all while underneath scantily clad beauties twirling around in white nylon hanging from the ceiling -- he headed for the doors well before the party ended.
When Russell returned to his hotel room in midtown Manhattan, it didn't take long for him to fall asleep and dream about what would happen a few hours later. "I was knocked out," he said. "It really didn't hit me last night. I just thought the faster I got to sleep, the quicker the day would come; so I had to get to sleep."
The magnitude of the day finally hit Russell when he woke up in the morning, turned on the television and saw clips of past draft moments as he got dressed to have his own draft moment. "The whole week has been fun, but this morning it started hitting me that I was going to the NFL Draft," said Russell. "I've seen it on TV for quite some time and just to be standing up there with the commissioner and all the fans in the stands ... That's when it really hit me."
While Russell says he didn't know who would draft him, there was little doubt among observers when he sauntered into Radio City Music Hall wearing an all-black suit. He had a grin on his face as he clutched his cell phone in his right hand, waiting for it to go off at any minute.
"I kind of wanted to dress all-black beforehand," said Russell, who got a text message from Raiders coach Lane Kiffin followed by a phone call a few minutes before his name was announced as the first player selected in the draft. "It's just a coincidence."
Russell might say that his appropriate attire was coincidental, but there were more than a few hints during the week that the Raiders would take him. The biggest came on Thursday night when Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp flew out to New York to meet with Russell and all but let him know that he would be their pick.
"I sat down with coach and he basically told me what to expect if things work out like they did today and how do I feel about it," Russell said. "Just making sure my head was on my shoulders and that I was not going to get caught up in the hype and everything."
There has been considerable hype surrounding Russell since his stellar performance in the Sugar Bowl, where he outshined Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. But the soft-spoken Russell has tried not to pay to much attention to all the attention he's gotten. "People don't know what happens behind those closed doors, the things that go on in your offense," said Russell. "They just go off what they see on TV."
Now Russell will get to play with guys he grew up watching on TV, like Randy Moss and Warren Sapp. "It's going to be terrific, I watched them as a kid," he said. "It's going to be exciting to get on the side of [Moss] and work one-on-one with each other. I just can't wait to get in and have the opportunity to do that."
As Russell adjusted his matching Raiders jacket and wiped the sweat off his brow before departing for a flight to Oakland, he recalled the last time he met with Raiders owners Al Davis in the Bay area.
"Sitting down and talking to him, I really got a chance to learn a lot of things from him," he said. "He told me that he likes touchdowns. I told him I did too, so we're going to try to make some things happen."