RB Rashad Jennings lifts during voluntary off-season workouts.Photo by Tony Gonzales
RB Rashad Jennings joins the Oakland Raiders after four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The small-town Virginia-native arrived in big-city California a few weeks ago and is getting settled in. "The transition, the only thing I've had to get used to is, I'm a routine guy, schedule with eating, schedule with everything, so my body was kind of trying to figure out why it wasn't eating, or why I wasn't up," said Jennings. "Adjusting to the time has probably been the hardest thing. Other than that, like I said, it's been welcoming, the weather is beautiful every single day."
The fifth-year NFL veteran is making friends quickly. "A story that was kind of funny: Somebody told me, 'Hey Rashad, before you go to San Francisco, make sure you have cash for the toll,'" said Jennings. "So I went to the ATM machine and when I went to the ATM machine at the hotel, I stuck in my card, typed in the code, and got my money. As I looked down, before my money started shooting out, there was already a $20 bill in it. I looked around because I was like, 'Man, somebody has got to feel sick.'"
So Jennings decided to ask around the hotel to see if anyone had lost some cash. Everyone was saying no until someone pointed him to some police officers. "So I went over there and asked the officers and sure enough, one of them went to the ATM, was missing a $20," said Jennings. "I gave it to him, and he said, 'Sir, where the heck are you from?' He said, 'People don't do that around here.' I got a chance to befriend him. Lo and behold, he ended up being the same person that helped me find a place to live. Ironically, there's always a story behind doing things the right way."
Jennings was able to make his way over to San Francisco and has also been finding his way around Oakland with the help of his new teammates. "It's been fun," said Jennings. "Getting adjusted to everybody's characteristics, quirks, attitudes, everything, it's been real fun. Everybody has been welcoming, energetic, excited for the season and helpful. My teammates have really been helping me get around the city, hanging out outside the facility, diving into the playbook."
The running back is enjoying being part of a team with a storied history. "I knew the history of the team," said Jennings. "I knew the pride of the team. I knew the fan base of the team. The history behind it speaks for itself. Watching football on TV as a little kid, growing up and seeing the Raiders, there's always been something behind the colors and what it stood for. I'm proud to be a part of it."
Raiders football to Jennings is "dirty, backyard football, in your face, pound, pound, pound, ugly," he said. "That's what football is about and I'm excited to be a part of it. It's going to bring out what's expected."
Jennings initially joined the Jaguars as a 7th round pick in 2009 out of Liberty, a small university in Virginia. With the 2013 NFL Draft recently coming to a close, Jennings remembered his experience waiting for the call. "I let people know it's an emotional rollercoaster," said Jennings. "There is no way around it. All the hard work that you dedicated and put into the game prior to it, since you were a kid, and now finally you've put in your job interview and your resume. You're waiting to see if you're going to be selected. So it's just an emotional rollercoaster."
The call from the Jaguars didn't go as Jennings expected…he lost service mid-conversation. "Soon as I'm about to start to talk -- this is a rookie, I'm wide-eyed, I don't know what's going on -- I lost service. I'm thinking, 'they aren't going to take me anymore.' I didn't know how it worked."
After he figured out he was still drafted, Jennings also realized that it does not matter how you make it to the league, whether you're a first round pick, 7th round selection, or an undrafted free agent. It's how you conduct yourself once you're in the building. "As soon as you get drafted, you go to your team, you have a fresh start. You have to rededicate yourself. Understand it's an opportunity and that's all it is. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is promised. Go in and earn the respect of the coaching staff, your peers, your players, understand the playbook inside and out, understand special teams, where you fit, your role and go take what's yours."
Jennings describes himself as a hard-worker who takes pride in his work on and off the field. He has many passions off the field as well. "Outside of football, I tell people I'm the biggest dork you'll find," said Jennings. "I'm just trapped in this body that decided to work and play this game called football. I like to play the guitar. I love magic, so I like magic tricks, card tricks. I like a good movie. I'm a hopeless romantic. I'm a community guy, easy-going people person."
He has his own foundation, Rashad Jennings Foundation, and hopes to continue mentoring and making an impact after football. "I started off in psychology and sociology," said Jennings. "I wanted to be a counselor. I started off at Pitt and I transferred to Liberty to go home to take care of my dad. He had diabetes and had to get his leg amputated. I went back home to take care of the house, help my mom and everything. That was 10 minutes from Liberty. So I went to Liberty, none of my credits transferred, so I had to pick a major just to stay eligible, so I went with Sports Management and Business with a minor in Biblical Education. What I would do now, through my foundation, I've been able to do a lot of things, but probably, I could see myself being a motivational speaker."
Make sure to follow the Raiders running back on Twitter: @RashadJennings