No one thought Jalen Richard would make it to the NFL, but the Louisiana native has put years of advice into action, which has resulted in him becoming an integral piece of the Raiders, but he couldn't have done it without the veterans who showed him the ropes.
When the undrafted free agent joined the Raiders in 2016, he entered a competitive backfield filled with Pro Bowler Latavius Murray, fullback Jamize Olawale, and fifth-round pick DeAndré Washington. Richard was the unproven back at the time, but he's managed to outlast all of them with the Raiders.
Jalen's talent was apparent on the field, but he earned a featured role through biding his time, and more importantly, listening. Over the years, he's been fortunate to meet and learn from some of the NFL's most-talented backs, such as the aforementioned Murray, Marshawn Lynch, and Doug Martin.
Each offered the 26-year-old something that elevated his game or made him a better individual off the field. For four years, Richard had a veteran to learn from and pick their brain, but now it's his turn to pass on that knowledge.
Last year, Richard worked in tandem with DeAndré Washington, but the latter recently departed in free agency for the division-rival Kansas City Chiefs. Together, the duo served as a veteran presence in the running back room, mentoring rookies Josh Jacobs and Alec Ingold, but now that responsibility is solely on Richard's shoulders, and he's ready to embrace it.
"I've been blessed to be a Raider for four years and to re-sign for two more, I'm definitely looking forward to that role," Richard said. "A lot of the guys before me, again, told me a lot of things and I just soaked all that in, and that's what I've really been using to help me with my career. I don't have no problem passing down the knowledge and tools on how to be a pro, and a family man through all this, and still be a loving, caring man on and off the field."
Jacobs and Ingold didn't play like rookies last year, and they're no longer the new kids on the block, but there's still a lot they don't know. Richard is eager to pass on the knowledge that was shared with him to the duo, as well as rookie Lynn Bowden.
"I'm going to take that position with pride now, being the oldest one in the room — but I still feel young though, I'm 26. I'm the oldest one in the room now — other than [Coach] Kirby Wilson — and I look forward to it," he said, clapping his hands together with anticipation. "I'm going to help these young guys any way I can, any questions they got, I'll definitely give them [answers]."
Under normal circumstances, Richard would have the opportunity to meet with his fellow running backs in person, but COVID-19 has made everything anything but normal; however, Richard is making it a priority to reach out to Bowden and make him feel comfortable sooner rather than later.
"I'll probably shoot him a text this week and make sure he knows if he has any questions on anything he can hit me [up]," Richard said. "We have a group message going, everybody has everybody's numbers. So, it's just a little hard right now because usually we'd be at work and he'd be able to ask me questions face-to-face, but with the quarantine, we can't do that."
At only 26 years old, Richard is the veteran running back in the Raiders' position room, but he's learned a lot in four years. Despite the competition surrounding him, Richard feels secure in his role and is prepared to serve as a leader to his peers.
Take a look at photos of RB Jalen Richard from this past season with the Silver and Black.