Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders signed veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew Friday. Jones-Drew joins the Silver and Black after eight years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who drafted the rusher in the 2nd round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Jones-Drew returns to the Bay Area where he spent his childhood and grew up a Raiders fan. A native of Antioch, Calif., MJD attended De La Salle High School, where he was part of the top high school football program in the nation.
He stayed in California for college, playing for UCLA for three years. He finished his college career with three school records - 4,688 yards all-purpose yards, 322 rushing yards in a single game, and five touchdowns in one game.
MJD went on to play for the Jaguars, where he was a three-time Pro Bowler (2009-2011) and a first-team All-Pro in 2011. He started 70 games and totaled 1,804 carries for 8,071 yards and 68 touchdowns. He added 335 receptions for 2,873 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The backfield veteran was not as productive in 2013, but is looking forward to an improved season in 2014. "You always have a chip on your shoulder…you want to compete and you want to bring the best out of you. You have to have that drive," said Jones-Drew. "For me, I have an opportunity to go out and play again. I didn't really play that well last year. I didn't play as well as I would have liked to. I get another opportunity this year and it's with a team that I love. My job is to do whatever I can to help this organization, this team, get back to the winning ways and be successful and that's why I'm here."
He joins the Raiders who have added key veterans to the roster through free agency. "I think Reggie McKenzie and his staff have done a great job of piling on guys like Matt Schaub, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe, these guys that are coming from programs that are winning. They know what it takes," said Jones-Drew. "It just feels like home. I think what Reggie is doing is he's creating a great environment for us to be successful and as players, we have to keep bringing that on and get that going."
MJD returns to the Oakland area at the age of 29. "It's a blessing…To be able to get back to the community that raised me growing up, to be able to play for a team that I've loved since I was a boy is exciting," said Jones-Drew. "A lot of players can't do this and haven't had the opportunity to do it, so when we saw the opportunity, I told my agent, this is where I want to be. He made it happen. I'm excited and I can't wait to get back out there and play for the Black and Silver."
The Raiders organization is where Jones-Drew feels comfortable. Not only did he grow up in the area as a Raiders fan, but he played high school football with quality control coach Nick Holz and was the neighbor of one of the Raiders ticket reps. "It's exciting to get back with people I've known. It's good to see people that I've known for my whole life," said Jones-Drew. "It's exciting to be around people that I know and I've been comfortable with for a long time."
Jones-Drew grew up watching guys like Tim Brown, Rich Gannon and Napoleon Kaufman. He understands the winning history of the Silver and Black. "The only goal I have is to win and that's it. I just think when you get into an organization like this that's so storied and has a great tradition, these guys, they know how to win," said Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew is extremely excited to be a part of the Raiders. "I don't think words can put how I really feel right now. I'm smiling because I'm so excited; I'm so happy," said Jones-Drew. "I know it's a big burden with that because the legacy and the tradition and how the Raiders organization is perceived throughout the league and all those different things. That's an opportunity for us to show what we're about, the challenge we can take on, and all I want to do is come and be an asset to this team, that's it. Whatever I can do to help us win, I'm willing to do it. It's going to be a fun ride. I can't wait."
The final chapter of Jones-Drew's career begins back home. "I get to end my career where I started. So it's going to be special. It's going to be a special ride."