Earlier this year, Southwest Airlines resumed nonstop flights from Birmingham, Ala., to Las Vegas, NV — which is convenient considering the amount of former Crimson Tide playmakers the Raiders will be putting on the field in 2021.
Well, not exactly the first time – just the first time in the Silver and Black.
Jacobs, Leatherwood and Ruggs were all teammates for two seasons at Alabama, winning a National Championship together in 2017. The CFB National Championship Game saw the trio defeat Georgia 26-23 in overtime. Before their arrival, Kenyan Drake was a star running back and return specialist for the Crimson Tide, winning national championships his freshman and senior seasons.
The four players have a combined six national championship rings and are set to continue their winning ways and collective success under Coach Gruden. Jacobs couldn't be more excited to be reunited with his old Crimson Tide teammates, especially Alex Leatherwood, who he expects a lot out of for his rookie campaign.
"I was just happy that he got drafted here," said Jacobs. "Just to hear his mentality coming in is what kind of impressed me. We had a couple of hour-long talks before he got drafted about what he wanted to do and how he wanted to present himself and the task he put on himself.
"I'm interested to see how he lives up to his expectations."
Jacobs' punishing and bruising style of running will also be more lethal with Kenyan Drake as his change-of-pace running back, and someone to pay attention to in the passing attack out of the backfield. Drake has previously stated how overjoyed he is to be in the same running back room as Jacobs, describing his running style as "infectious." Jacobs and Drake has been friends for years now, and formed a brotherhood that helped guide Drake's decision to come to the desert.
"I was fighting for the dude to get him over here when I found out that Book [Devontae Booker] was leaving," said Jacobs regarding Drake. "I've known Kenyan forever, since Alabama days. He used to come back and train with me all the time. His game speaks for itself. He's very versatile. Can play inside and very good in open space. He can take the top off, so he's going to be a great addition."
Quarterback Derek Carr was elated to see Jacobs and Drake on the field as well, as the two running backs combined for 2,020 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns last season.
"They are going to complement each other great," said Derek Carr. "Kenyan is not just a route-running kind of running back. I mean he's had 900-and-something, 1,000-yard seasons. The guy is a good football player. When you have two backs like that, you don't have to kill Josh. Josh, he can be fresh every snap.
"Could you imagine that? Having to tackle that guy fresh every single time?"
"It’s been a long journey, but it’s going to pay off.” Josh Jacobs
For his part, Jacobs has been doing a lot this offseason to stay fresh the duration of this season. The Pro Bowler has seen 515 carries in his two seasons with the Raiders and has become extremely proactive in taking care of his body.
"I wanted to (improve) everything, even body care," said Jacobs. "Get more flexibility, little things to work on. Little different muscles and things like that I wanted to improve on. Overall health and things like that, so when I come in and when I get banged up, I have different aspects of things I wanted to work on. Like I said, I did balance work. I did a lot of little things that I feel like I've been doing, but I just took it up another step.
"I would say this is the first offseason I really just put my head down and was focused on one thing. It's been a long journey, but it's going to pay off."
The Raiders' run game is poised to be alive and well in Las Vegas this season with Jacobs, Drake and Leatherwood leading the way. But on the outside, Henry Ruggs III is poised to have a major year as well after showing glimpses of becoming an elite receiver his rookie year. Ruggs will also benefit from the lethal run attack the Raiders have in store, creating more opportunities for him to take the top off the secondary. You also can't forget Raiders guard Lester Cotton Sr., who was teammates with all four players at Alabama from 2015-2018. He re-signed with the Silver and Black in February and will play a key role in helping developing Leatherwood.
The last time Jacobs, Leatherwood, Ruggs and Cotton were on a field together, they were playing in a National Championship game, so it has to make Raiders' fans excited to see what's to come.
Get an inside look at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center for the Silver and Black's first day of minicamp.