MJD and Del Rio Come Full Circle


In 2014 Maurice Jones-Drew came home, and in 2015 he will reunite with a familiar face from his past.

On January 15, the Raiders named Jack Del Rio the team's head coach, and while he may have to introduce himself to some players on the roster, Jones-Drew will not be one of them.

After an impressive collegiate career at UCLA, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Jones-Drew in the second round (No. 60 overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.

And guess who the head coach was in Jacksonville when he arrived as a 21-year old rookie? Jack Del Rio.

"[Coach Del Rio] knows what he wants to see, and so it's a lot of black and white with him," said Jones-Drew. "Either you're getting the job done, or not, and that's what a great leader does."

He continued, "He's able to take the talent and push you to execution, to be able to show you how to do it, how it's supposed to be done and if it's not done the right way, he's going to explain it to you again, and then he's going to keep encouraging guys to do things the right way."

During their six seasons in Jacksonville together, both Jones-Drew and Del Rio found success both individually and as a team.

Jones-Drew made three Pro Bowls, was named a First-Team All-Pro twice and led the NFL in rushing in 2011, while the Jaguars were contenders in the competitive AFC South, earning a playoff berth in 2007.

"We were very competitive," Jones-Drew said of those Jacksonville teams. "We had a mindset of just dominating teams and it was instilled throughout practice, throughout meetings."

In addition to consistently fielding competitive teams, much has been made about Coach Del Rio's ability to lead, and that's something that Jones-Drew has witnessed firsthand.

"He played the game before so he understands what it's like to play," Jones-Drew said. "To be sore, to play the game at a high level, to be an All-Pro, a Pro Bowler at the position of 'MIKE' linebacker. He understands what it takes to play at that level."

Jones-Drew and Del Rio's stories have another parallel, as both men are Bay Area-natives who are now members of the team they grew up rooting for.

Jones-Drew is an Antioch-native and played for powerhouse high school De La Salle, and Del Rio grew up in Hayward and was a three-sport athlete for the Hayward High School Farmers.

Jones-Drew fulfilled a childhood dream last season playing in front of Raider Nation in Silver and Black at O.co Coliseum, and knows the emotions that Coach Del Rio will feel as he runs out of the tunnel for the first time as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

"It's something that you never could dream of," said Jones-Drew. "I don't think there could be a fairy tale like that. I know when he gets out there the first game he'll be a little nervous because we have so many jitters and so many things that you thought about and dreamed about doing and you obviously get a chance to do it, but once that goes in we'll be ready to roll."

The 2014 season did not go quite as planned for the Raiders, but as the team goes through the offseason and prepares for the 2015 campaign, Jones-Drew is optimistic with the direction of the organization.

"As long as guys buy in to [Coach Del Rio's] situation and his message and his philosophy, we'll be fine," he said. "I thought we did well towards the end of last year, we kind of started to really get ourselves going and hopefully we can start off faster and just carry it on throughout the year."

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