Gazzolo Column: Russell deserves, but hasn't earned, a second chance

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Perhaps in all of sports, there has never been a bigger draft bust than JaMarcus Russell.

The LSU quarterback and Sugar Bowl MVP used his giant performance on the big stage against Notre Dame to fool all the experts.

He was considered a can’t-miss talent.

Picked first in the draft by the Oakland Raiders, Russell was given the keys to the kingdom and the combination to the vault.

It was Spring 2007 and all was right in Russell’s world.

Fast forward to Sunday night. We see Russell broke and begging for another chance. He is no longer the size of a Macy’s Day

Parade balloon, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to make a comeback.

Still, while watching the short film on ESPN that served more as an infomercial for Russell than anything else, you got the

feeling that the former Tiger was trying to tell us all that he deserved a second chance.

That’s where we have to make a clarification.

I’m all for people working through their problems and getting fresh starts. No country on earth does this more than America.

We are the land of the free, home of the brave and the givers of second chances.

It’s in our DNA.

Sports especially loves a great comeback story.

But, first you have to admit you were wrong.

Russell seemed to put his problems on depression that came full circle with the death of an uncle.

I am sorry for his loss and I understand losing a family member can be a hard thing for many to overcome, but it does happen

to all of us. And few of us quit on their team or their bosses like Russell.

His 31-game NFL career reads like a disaster film. It should be noted that his career also lasted parts of three seasons and

not once during that time did we hear about any depression.

Clearly, those who had invested $31 million in his talents would have been more than willing to help a troubled young man.

No question some teammates would have rallied around him.

The Raiders did just such a thing for another troubled young quarterback, Todd Marinovich.

With so much riding on Russell, it is not likely the team would have quit on him like he did on them.

And not once did we hear of Russell offering to give back any of his money. Even when he missed practices, meeting and workouts.

That is the biggest issue in any comeback talk. Is Russell ready to stand up and take ownership of his past mistakes?

It’s one thing to throw an interception. It’s another to throw a franchise under the bus with your lack of professionalism.

So the question isn’t whether or not Russell deserves a second chance. He was given many of those during his playing days.

The question now is has he earned a second chance.

That is to be decided not by how fast he runs or how far he can throw but how willing he is to say he’s sorry to those he


Players trusted him and got burned. Now, he must earn that trust back.

If he can do that, Russell may once again find his place on an NFL roster.

It would be his second chance to make a good first impression.

Just don’t tell us you deserve one.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at