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Rashad Jennings’ surreal rise: ‘I took a freaking 180’
In our latest Q&A, Jennings details how a 275-pound, fifth-string running back in high school made it to the NFL. (We talk plenty of Giants, OBJ and AB, too.)
No way did Rashad Jennings think he’d amount to anything in football as a junior in high school.
He was lazy. He was 275 pounds. He was a fifth-string running back. He… stuffed the pockets of his game pants with Skittles and Sprite.
And, one night, everything changed.
For our latest Q&A conversation at Go Long, we chat for an hour with the seven-year NFL back. His rise is quite inspiring. With the Jaguars, Raiders and Giants, of course, Jennings had 3,772 rushing yards, 1,469 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns. Generally, big things happened when the ball was in his hands. He was also a key member of the only Giants team to make the playoffs in the last 10 years. Since playing, Jennings won “Dancing with the Stars” and became a New York Times bestselling author.
In this conversation, we dig into…
The Giants of 2022. Is there hope?
The concept of “loyalty.” He believes there is none in football — and his philosophy on the word itself sure will make you think.
His Dad drank and smoked and didn’t want anything to do with him as a kid… until Rashad spoke up.
The night his life changed forever. He really was a fifth-string back as a junior in high school. Then, with a college scout on hand, everything changed.
Why he believes Odell Beckham Jr. is only getting started. With the Giants, his locker was right by OBJ’s locker, too. He knows the wide receiver well.
Antonio Brown. He wants to see AB sign with a new team. (And thinks that team could then win the Super Bowl, too.)
Miss a previous Q&A conversation at Go Long? Catch up on all of them right here. We’ve chatted with the likes of Edgerrin James, Kurt Warner, LeRoy Butler, Bruce Smith, Stevie Johnson, Ahman Green, Drew Bledsoe, Ronde Barber and LeRoy Buter on just about everything.
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How’s life? You’re doing “Dancing with the Stars.” You’re breaking the game down. How are you these days?
Jennings: I’m good. I’m in California, moving to and fro, working on projects. I just brought in Christmas and the New Year in Mexico. Came back across the border with a new dog because I’m a sucker for things that can’t defend themselves and I saw a little precious puppy, a German Shepherd. And I already have one, so we’ll see if he has any lover in him at some point and see if they breed with each other.
So, you just saw a dog and picked him up?
Jennings: When you come back to America, it’s a long line. And in that line, you’ve got a lot of people selling things. Hats. Souvenirs. I saw this guy come by with a dog and it was a lab. I’m moving into a new spot in San Diego that has some land, so I’m like, “It would be nice to have another dog.” The one that I do have, his name’s Diesel, a German Shepherd that’s a boy. He wouldn’t be by himself. I’m like, “Nah. He might want to mate. I don’t want to cross-breed.” So, I asked the guy, “Do you have any Germans?” He said something in Spanish — dah-dah-dah — and came back 30 minutes later. Sure enough, he had two German Shepherds. I picked one and here we are.
Let’s start with the Giants of today. Things are not good, as I’m sure you’re well aware. From afar, how are you taking in the dysfunction with the organization right now?
Jennings: I would say it’s taking longer than the fans would want and expect the team to put together a product that is competitive enough to make the playoffs. At least make the push, the hunt, something. The last time the Giants had a winning season was when I was there. We were 11-5, we went to the playoffs, we played against Green Bay, we coughed up a loss. The following year, all morale is high. We have everyone coming back but we cut two players—they let go of Victor Cruz and they let go of myself. They added a ton of other players. High morale, high expectations. I think they went 3-and-something. It’s been a downhill spiral of new coaches, new GMs, trying to find the right recipe to get everybody to compete. They got a freak of nature in Saquon Barkley and tried to get some receivers out there like Golladay. Making the right steps but cannot put it together. I don’t know the rhyme or reason. I’m not in the locker rooms anymore. I’m not in the office. However, I know the Giants and I know the owners and they have a championship mentality. So, I know, without a doubt, they’ll find the recipe to get everybody back in order. I know they’re giving every effort they can to put everything back in order. It’s been unfortunate, man.
That’s the big question. Are they willing to just fumigate the building — in every way. Get out the old. Bring in the new. I think the fans want that independent voice to come in and get a read on the situation. Gettleman was there before and usually it’s somebody who was there before. It’s been bad. Especially the last couple of weeks.
Jennings: It’s been tough. I always tell people, as a player, as an athlete, as a pro, you have to find it within yourself to go out there and ball. Coaches call plays. Players make them or don’t. There has to be, inside the NFL, a reason that a man wants to do a great job — even if it’s selfishly. Your selfish desires actually should benefit the team. I get there’s no “I” in team and I get the adage to create team morality but I’ve always been a person of individuality first, to be honest, because you came in by yourself and you’re going to leave by yourself. Your choices to create friendships and create responsibilities, that’s on you as an individual. I hope as an individual, you want to grow, because that’s what’s collectively going to help the team. So, I always preach individuality, and 11 individuals working together at the same accord? That’s how you get a team and that’s how you win. I don’t like beating people over the head with, “Team first!” Man, there ain’t no “team first.” You get cut. You get traded. That stuff’s a joke.
I love fans but the one thing about fans is they cheer for their teams. When I was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, we played against the Oakland Raiders. I’ll never forget it. We went to the Raiders’ stadium and I scored a touchdown in the “Black Hole.” And those fans reached over and gave me the biggest middle fingers from hell, like they hated me, like they couldn’t stand me. And through free agency — the next year — I became a Raider. Those same exact fans came up to me in the same exact spot when I was warming up in pregame and were like, “Jennings! You remember us? We love you now! You’re with us!” I remember looking at them like, “These dudes are buck wild but I love it.”
The same exact ones?
Jennings: The same exact ones. The spiked shoulder pads. The tear face. Everything. I thought to myself, “Yeah, this reiterates how I can’t believe people expect players to be loyal to a team. You all cut us and get rid of us. You’re better off us being loyal to our standards.” That’s a whole other psychology.
Everybody talks about “culture” in a locker room. That’s the big talk right now with Joe Judge and the Giants and I guess he wants that as a coach. Culture probably does matter in a lot of cases — Mike Tomlin has built a really good thing, Bill Belichick. There are really good cultures. But I feel like there’s teams like the Giants in a state of needing better talent. Maybe it comes back to what you’re saying.
Jennings: It goes down to this idea of loyalty. I had this conversation and you’ll probably laugh. But I was talking to my girl one day and it was her and her friends and her sisters. The conversation led her to ask me about loyalty. She said, “Do you think I’m loyal to you?” I said the worst answer. I said, “No.” I said, “I don’t believe people can be loyal to people.” Which was probably the second-worst response I could say at the time because she really didn’t understand where I was coming from. It was the typical response — “What!? Is there something you have to tell me!?” All these things. I said, “Listen. My theory is this: Humans cannot be loyal to humans. Loyalty to me is somebody’s willingness to commit to their own morality. Now, what happens is, I benefit from your loyalty. And vice versa.” Again, I’m talking to my girl. So I ask, “Would you cheat on me?” She says, “No.” I say, “Did you cheat on your ex?” She says, “No.” I said, “Would you cheat on somebody else you were with?” She said, “No.” I said, “See, that proves my point. That proves you’re not loyal to me. Your commitment to your morality is what loyalty is and I just benefit from your loyalty to something else.” Now vice versa, I would fight for my family. Not just because of her. She benefits from my loyalty. So, then I said, “Take that philosophy and apply it to life. People aren’t loyal to individuals. People benefit from peoples’ loyalty.” The conversation was way better. I’m glad I got a chance to explain it.
She got it then. You’re still together.
Jennings: Still together. We benefit from each other’s loyalty, I’ll tell you that.
So, you see a parallel to football?
Jennings: Yes. There’s a major parallel to football with that. It goes back to being loyal to a “team.” You can’t. It is impossible. You just benefit from that player. That’s all. Because the names can change. The faces can change. The expectations never will. And I quote that one from one my favorite coaches I played under: Tom Coughlin. He’d always say that. I used to take notes from him. Every day, he’d give me a quote that was just like fire. One of the things he said before he left (was)… “The faces may change but the expectations never will.” And I never forgot that.
What is Tom Coughlin really like? We hear about “Coughlin Time” and maybe we remember him at Lambeau Field with the red face. Beyond that, I don’t know if a lot of people know much about him.
Jennings: Dope, man. I loved him. He’s hardnosed. His favorite cuss word is “ass.” He’s a family guy. He’s definitely old school. There isn’t fluff about him. You know what you’re going to get. I loved him. I was used to that type of coach my whole entire upbringing, high school and college. My college coach, Danny Rocco, actually coached underneath Coughlin (at Boston College). So, he picked up with philosophies. I was used to it. I loved it. Other players have different stories to tell to you on why they don’t like him. But I loved the dude.
Take it back to high school. Is it true you were a fifth-string running back at one point? Chubby? Not getting a shot? Where does it all begin with you?
Jennings: Unfortunately, that’s true. I was fifth-string. An overweight kid. Glasses, asthma, 0.6 GPA. It was bad. I should not be in the positions I find myself in. I should not have been in the NFL, by far, based upon where I was at. You would’ve never picked me to play kickball on your team from high school or pick-up basketball. I was never The Guy. I had a complete 180.
270 pounds? You were that big?
Jennings: About 275 is the heaviest I’ve ever seen on a scale.
What happened then? How did you go from Point A to Point B?
Jennings: Honestly, luck, prayer, God opening up doors that couldn’t be closed. I always ask God to do things in my life that I can’t take credit for. And he has. It’s that simple for me. But, I will say, I did put a lot of work in. There’s a quote I really appreciate, and that’s “Get on your knees and pray like it all depends on God. Get off your knees and work like it all depends on you.” I truly picked up that philosophy and took a 180 and took ownership and responsibility. I stopped blaming people. I stopped making excuses. And I never turned back around.
But, man, it all started in high school. When I say I didn’t play, I mean I legit didn’t play. I used to come on the field and — instead of putting thigh pads in and knee pads in — I used to put in M&Ms, Sprite, some candy. I didn’t wear pads because I never played. So, I looked at it as pockets. There was a buddy of mine, “Speedy,” who didn’t earn his name at all. Me and him both sucked. We sat on the sideline and had front-row tickets to see the game. That’s kind of how we saw it. On Friday night, we were there having a good time. We’re high-fiving. I’m a junior. I never played. It’s the last game of the season and we’re playing against our high school rival: the Brookville Bees. We’re the Jefferson Forest Cavaliers. They have a shot to go to the playoffs if they beat us. We don’t have a shot no matter what. So, to us, it’s like our Super Bowl.
There’s a Tennessee scout to scout our running back: Quincy Freeman. He was really good. And Brookville had another good running back that was going to college to play. So, the Tennessee scout was going to watch them go at it. Our offense goes out, very first play of the game, our starting running back gets hurt. Now, my dude Speedy’s excited. He’s one of those dudes who’s always amped for his buddies. So, he’s like, “Hey, Rashad, you might play today!” I’m like, “Dude, get the heck out of here. They ain’t going to put me in.” I go back to eating my peanuts watching the game. Second string goes out and he gets hurt. First quarter. All of this happens in the first quarter, it’s well-documented, I can’t make this stuff up. Third string goes out and he gets hurt. Speedy once again: “Bro! They might actually have to play you!” “Shut up, they’re not going to play me.” And I go back to eating my peanuts. The third string, when he got hurt, they re-taped up the ankle of the first-stringer. He went out there, he couldn’t compete, so they’re down to the fourth. We put in the fourth-string running back and, sure enough, he gets hurt. So now we’re down to the fifth. Speedy’s over here flipping out, doing cartwheels or something, thinking I’m going to get in. The coach scans the sideline, catches eye contact with me, looks away, points at a wide receiver and tells him to get in the game instead of me.
So part of me is pissed, like, “That’s my spot. I’m supposed to be going in.” The other half of me is like, “Whew! I ain’t going in and getting hurt!” Everybody’s getting hurt for some reason. So this wide receiver goes in. He gets hurt. They are stuck with nothing but me. Coach just screams, “Jennings! Get in the game!” He’s pissed. He doesn’t want to put me in. I don’t know where my helmet is. It’s always just on the sideline somewhere. So, I pick a random helmet up, it’s too wobbly — they’re screaming, “Jennings! Get in!” — so I buckle it up and this mouthpiece is dangling. I’m contemplating: “Should I use this? Should I not?” I just rip the mouthpiece off and throw it. It’s not mine. And I go in. We’ve got white pants and all I have is residue on my pants from Skittles, M&Ms, butter from popcorn. I go in smelling like a concession stand. My teammates say, “Rashad, what the heck are you doing in here?”
First play, run play. Make one man miss, make another man miss, 30-yard touchdown. First play. Ever. So I throw the ball into the stands and get an excessive celebration. I chest bump Speedy. He falls down. They put back in the third string and he couldn’t compete like I was. They put me back in and I score another touchdown. It’s halftime, 14-14. Come back out after halftime and the defensive guys are getting hurt left and right. They put me in on defense. I come off the edge, sack the quarterback, he fumbles. I pick it up, nobody’s in front of me, 40-yard touchdown. Three touchdowns.
So, to end the game, it’s 24-21, Brookville’s winning. All they have to do is run the clock out, fourth quarter, a minute left. We have three timeouts. They run the ball, we tackle them, timeout. Run the ball, tackle them, timeout. On third down, they got cute and decided to run a screen play. I sniff it out. I intercept it. I score a touchdown. We win. I scored four touchdowns — two on offense, two on defense — and only played a total of 14 plays. That Tennessee scout who was there to watch the starting running backs came up to me after the game and said, “Hey, Rashad, I came to watch Quincy and Sam but I couldn’t help but to notice you. Son, you weren’t even on the roster. How are your grades?” I looked at him and said, “Sir, I have a 0.6.” He said, “You’ve got to try to do stuff like that. How do you have a 0.6?!” I didn’t have any good answers for him. He looked at me and said, “Son, you have potential. Get your grades right.”
That was the first time someone looked into my eyes and said, “You have potential” outside of Mom, Dad, family and the occasional nice people who say that and it doesn’t hit you. That hit me different. My two older brothers both were at that game to watch me. They were excited. They went to a private school to coach, for free, to help pay half of my tuition to go there. My parents took a mortgage against the home to pay the other half of tuition so I could go there. I went to a private school. I repeated my junior year. I took nine summer school classes, nine home-school classes on top of the regular academics and I stopped blaming people. I stopped making excuses. The rest is history from there. I finally got a fresh start.
That’s phenomenal. It almost sounds made up. The Skittles. The popcorn. Four touchdowns. The scout. And 270 you’re doing this at?
Jennings: Yeah! I can’t make this up, man. … You can go look up “Rashad Jennings, high school” on YouTube and you’ll see after I transferred to private school how big I was.
So, why did you even play football? It sounds like you didn’t even like the sport. Why are you out there to begin with? Why are you even on that sideline?
Jennings: I think it was just a way of life. My two older brothers played football. They were Bryan Jennings, an All-American who played tight end at Virginia Tech and played for the Titans, the Chargers, the Patriots. My older brother played football. My Dad was a football player. I just grew up around it and I always wanted to be like my brothers. So that’s what threw me in it. I liked competing. I didn’t really understand the game itself. I didn’t understand how many parallels there were with the game of life and football. I was just a knucklehead out there that wanted to hit somebody because I was allowed to hit somebody and not get in trouble.
So, you shed the pounds. And at Lynchburg Christian Academy, you run for over 3,000 yards, 56 touchdowns and it took off from there?
Jennings: Yeah, I went to the University of Pittsburgh and ended up transferring because of my father’s illness. He had to get one of his legs amputated at the time. I transferred from Pitt to Liberty — Liberty’s 10 minutes from my home. Three years at Liberty. Got a chance to get drafted. I barely slipped in at every level of my life. To transfer high schools. One day is why I transferred. Fourteen plays. Just barely, someone was there. Then, I transfer. I barely get by the NCAA Clearinghouse because my grades were so bad. I didn’t go in the fall. I had to go in January. Then, when I transferred (in college), I was one of the last kids who could actually transfer from one college to another college without having to sit out. I don’t even think I graduated high school in time. Honestly, we can talk because they can’t do anything now, I swear I saw a diploma come in from high school about three years ago. Officially.
So, you’re not really even sure if you graduated?
Jennings: I don’t know. I have no idea.
You do have to try hard to get a 0.6.
Jennings: You do, man. I failed everything. I failed every class. That’s why reading is so important to me, and writing. That’s why I became an author and I’m humbled to become a New York Times bestseller. I love writing. I failed every English class known to mankind in high school. When I went to college, my first year, I became the Freshman Writer of the Year Award winner at the University of Pittsburgh. I wrote a 15-page paper about the word, “Nothing.”
True story. My first year in college, my first English class in college, I go prepared. I got my backpack, I got my computer, I got my glasses, I’m ready to learn. I ain’t no failing no more again. I’m in college with a fresh start. Show up and the professor opened the class and said, “Just so you know, you guys have a 15-page paper due at the end of the semester. Write about anything you want.” Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Class is dismissed. Halfway through the semester, she did the same thing, “Just a reminder, there’s a 15-page paper due at the end of the semester….” I was like, “Dang, I completely forgot about that.” I became pretty good friends with the professor so I thought it’d be funny. I said, “I ain’t going to write about nothing.” I’m going to staple 15 pages together, write my name on it, blank and turn it in just to be funny.
But I went home and I looked up the word, “nothing.” And it was so intriguing I wrote 15 pages about it.
What did you write?
Jennings: “Nothing” can go any direction you want it to. One example I gave about the word, “Nothing,” in trying to understand it abstractly — I took a philosophical route at it — if you were preparing for a brief at nighttime for the office in the morning and you put together 10 pages. You put it in your briefcase. You put it beside the door with your umbrella and you’re ready for the day in the morning. You wake up. You shower. You pick up your briefcase and umbrella and go to work. While you’re in your Uber, you check your briefcase and open it and see all 10 pages that you worked on were present. That means that “nothing” is missing.
Another perspective is if you go to a horror movie with a friend and you start hearing these creepy sounds and you leave. On your way to the car, it’s dark and scarce and you hear something. “What was that?” “Nothing.” Nothing actually is an illusion in that case. Nothing is something we use as a reference and a filler to describe something that we don’t in the English dictionary have an explanation for. Or we’re being lazy. “Hey, what are you up to?” “Nothing.”
That probably forced your brain to take these twists and turns that you weren’t expecting, which was probably the whole point of the paper.
Jennings: Got an “A.” Won an award from it.
So, when you came back home, your Dad had to have his leg amputated? That had to be traumatic. What was that period of your life really like?
Jennings: It was something I felt was right to do. I was 19 years old. My family had been there for me for 19 years. I worked really hard to put myself in a position to go to a big college and I did. I was the starter at Pitt. At the time, there were only four other starters who were true starting running backs in the program’s history and Tony Dorsett was one of them. It was cool to be in the category with his name. Now, LeSean McCoy’s in there. I transferred because I love family. I really do. I found out that the world is round. You do what’s right and it’ll come back to you over time. I wanted to be home to help my Mom and my Dad around the house. Still, I was able to go to college and get my degree. I was able to go to college and play football and have my chance to go pro. So, it was a win. At the time, Liberty was 1-10 when I transferred there. They were trash. Dog trash. But I went there for a different mission.
Was he able to get through that hardship? I imagine he appreciated having you there.
Jennings: It grew our relationship a lot. Me and my Dad had an adverse relationship growing up. He used to drink and smoke a lot, which triggered part of my asthma. He was in the Air Force. PTSD really had its way with him. My brothers are 10 and 14 years older than me. I was the “Whoops! Here we go again!” I think he kind of checked out. So, our relationship was tough. It’s one of the reasons why, I’m 36 today, and I’ve never drank alcohol a day in my life. I never smoked. I had a heart-to-heart with my Dad. It was just to prove him wrong. When I was hospitalized because of my asthma attack, there was one particular time in the hospital when the doctor brought in my pops and my Mom and they knew my Dad smoked in the house and around me. They asked my Dad, “Sir, you’re going to have to stop smoking around your son. It’s triggering his asthma.”
A week later, he’s right back in the house smoking. There’s one day I was downstairs and I could smell the smoke through the vents. I smelled it. I started choking up. I put a pillow over my face and I go upstairs and knock on my Dad’s door. He doesn’t answer it. I open it. He’s in the corner drinking and smoking like he usually does. I was 13 years old with these big red-rimmed glasses. This fat kid. I just got out of the hospital. I remove the pillow and said, “Hey, Dad. Can you stop drinking and smoking and be there for me?” He took a puff of smoke. He took a sip of his drink. He looked at me and said, “Rashad, what do you want to do when you get older?” Now, I’m kind of excited because this is the first time he’s ever asked me that and I feel like I can have a conversation with my pops. But I could see he was being arrogant. Either way, I take my opportunity. I say, “Dad, I want to play running back in the NFL.” He took a puff of his smoke. He took a sip of his drink. He looked at me and said, “Rashad, do you think you’ll be able to make it to the league without drinking and smoking yourself?” Like, Who are you to ask me in my own home? I said, “Dad, just to prove you wrong, I’m never going to do it.” Made it to the league. Played running back. Never drank, never smoked, just to prove him wrong. It was funny and the irony of it is, that grew our relationship so close. He ended up quitting drinking and smoking to watch this little knucklehead kid prove him wrong. That was a turning point for both of us. I reserved more years on his life. He gave me a motive and we became some of the best friends because of those little hard moments. Because of that, I always tell people, “Anger is one of the greatest fuels available. How we channel it, that’s up to you.”
I could’ve been very bitter, very distorted, very discouraged, depressed. I could’ve played the card of many different mental things. Fortunately, I had two loving brothers that wouldn’t allow that. And I used that as a fuel, as a chip to motivate me to do what was right.
Me and my Pops were great. We lost him just last year before Covid. It wasn’t because of Covid. I was able to buy my parents a home, allow him to live in it and customized it for his handicap and do some real amazing things over the last 15 years. We grew a great relationship.
You had every reason to be a victim because you were a victim. You could’ve wallowed in your self-pity and we’re not sitting here talking. Who knows who Rashad Jennings is? Who knows where you go if you go that route? You’re probably talking to young kids all the time about your story and how it is up to you. You had these circumstances — your Dad is doing this — but you had that conversation and took matters into your own hands.
Jennings: Absolutely. What grew our relationship was me going to him. Removing pride. I fought for my Dad’s love for the longest time and I finally got it. I have the hardest conversations with people all the time about not being a victim. And it doesn’t start or stop with race. Being a victim is an issue with a lot of humans. I definitely don’t want that to be taken as a race thing. That’s a human issue. Motivating people to take more ownership over their life, more responsibility over their life. To look in the mirror more for their choices and answers instead of looking to point the finger, that’s something I stand on. I always have. It’s one of the turning points of my life. Which is why I started a football camp for kids called, “180.” I took a freaking 180. So I give the secrets of life along with the tips of football.
Big South Conference rushing record — 3,633 yards, 42 touchdowns.
Jennings: Yeah, I’m surprised it hasn’t been broken. I was only there three years. Somebody will break that one. Somebody will break my high school one. One record that’s a personal record I don’t think will ever be touched as long as we live, I went to LCA — which played at Liberty University Stadium — and I went to Liberty University for three years and I played in Liberty University Stadium. So I counted 115 touchdowns total on that football field. High school and college. That record of who scored the most touchdowns on this 100-yard field? That’s Rashad Jennings and that’ll last forever.
Jacksonville. Oakland. The Giants. Everywhere you’ve been, you’ve been productive. Thinking back to random games and moments, it seemed like every time you were on the field, something good happened. You performed, moved on. Performed, moved on. But you did get that contract with the Giants so that had to be sweet to finally get rewarded. What NFL memories from 2009 to 2016 do you still cherish to this day?
Jennings: One of the main ones was when my Dad was able to come out and watch me play. He came out on a wheelchair. My family surprised me. He showed up. I broke a personal record that day, too, and ran for 170-something yards and a touchdown against the Texans. I set a PR every time I played against the Texans. They couldn’t figure me out to save my life. I don’t know why they didn’t pick me up in free agency.
The Hail Mary play I witnessed, when David Garrard threw it to Mike Thomas, that was crazy to witness. It fell right in Mike Thomas’ hands. It was a surreal moment to witness that. Another surreal moment was watching Odell Beckham Jr. turn into a celebrity overnight in front of the world. That was dope. Odell came in as a rookie and he was injured. He’s trying to figure it out — how to take care of his body, the do’s and don’ts. I took him under my wing a little bit when it comes to how to take care of your body. I don’t take any credit for that man’s talent. But I pulled him aside and he’d warm up with me before practice. Stretch a certain way. I gave him a little warmup routine. You could start to see him elevate and get more comfortable with the game. This dude was unreal dominant. I’ve never seen an athlete up close in personal be able to do what he does outside of Justin Blackmon, which is a sad story. I got to see two wide receivers that were unreal — Odell Beckham Jr. and Justin Blackmon. Justin Blackmon, up here (points to head), if he could’ve played, he might’ve broken way more records than a lot of other people.
He’s just written off as a never-was. I don’t know if anybody realizes that. He could’ve been special?
Jennings: Yes. Yes. One of the best I’ve ever seen. But he just had some hardships going on, outside of the lines of football.
But Odell, I just watched him grow as an athlete and figure it out. It’s cool to see. It’s really cool to see a puppy grow up. I’ve got a little puppy. It’s cool to watch them grow up and become their own. I got to see Odell become this celebrity. There was a time after he made that catch, before we went out to practice, he had maybe 600,000 followers. We come back out of practice, it’s a million something. Come out of a meeting, now it’s close to 1.5 million. The next day, it’s like 2 million.
I don’t know how many celebrities in my lifetime became celebrities overnight like that. One play. One moment. Boom, just like that, the world knows who you are. That had to be insane to be there through that.
Jennings: New York. Right timing. His personality. He loves the camera and the camera loves him. It works. It’s a great marriage. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a great athlete. A good kid. Funny. He loves people. There’s a lot of great things to say about him that the media never really covers about the kid. It’s been fun from a distance watching his career grow. And then, two, he’s a freakin’ rock star. He’s not just a really good athlete that people follow. He’s a rock star. Fashion. Hip Hop. Culture.
He’s out of Cleveland now. He’s with the Rams. How much left does he have to give?
Jennings: Oh, a lot. I think he’s just getting cooking. To be honest with you. I think he’s just getting cooking. Odell is smart. Our conversations we have, he’s a smart man. He understands business. And I think personally — I don’t know this, but I assume — him getting how football works, his best commodity is being healthy. In Cleveland, he didn’t tax his body but so much. He was battling injuries getting back. That gave him rest. He didn’t have the prosperous career he could’ve with the Browns. That gave him more rest. I think mentally, he probably was more drained more than physically in Cleveland. Now, he’s somewhere mentally where he’s probably enjoying himself. He’s on the West Coast. Plus, he’s still young. He’s still Odell. He’s still a freak of nature. He’s still a team player. Anybody who’s played with him has nothing bad to say. Just media. He’s loved in that locker room. Sean McVay knows how to work with young players. I think he might’ve found a home and combination of other athletes in there that he can play as long as he wants, man.
He’s been written off by most people. If that’s the outcome, I think it’ll surprise a lot of people.
Jennings: I think he’s going to be the consistent, established player that has production. And because of who he is, it’s going to make it seem more than what it is. But I think he’ll be a player as long as he wants to and compete.
A Super Bowl prediction?
Jennings: I’m biased. I like the Arizona Cardinals. I’ve always been an Arizona Cardinals fan since I was six years old. So I’m glad we’ve got something moving over there. However, you can’t write off Brady. You can’t write off the Rams right now. I don’t think anybody wants to play Cincinnati. They figured out something there. The Cowboys have pound-for-pound one of the best offenses. I don’t know what Dak’s been doing lately but I’m pretty sure he’ll figure it out. You’ve got Kansas City that’s Kansas City. So, it’s wide open. And the Colts!
Whoever wins is whoever picks up Antonio Brown. That’s who’s going to win the Super Bowl. That’s my prediction.
I’m not sure when people will be listening or reading to this but, right now, he’s on the team but they won’t release him. I’m interested to see if another team will take that chance on him.
Jennings: I don’t like what the head coach over there said, that he’s “no longer a Buc.” Respectfully, I understand that.
We all saw what we saw. That was insane.
Jennings: I totally understand that as a head coach, but you lied. Because he’s still a Buc. So, that’s just not the truth. He probably sincerely in his heart thought he was done. So I can’t necessarily say it’s a lie. It’s just not the truth. That’s tough. I wish they either let him go or let him play. I’m not mad at AB at all. I’m not. He left the game. He’s mad. Who knows why? I wasn’t there. You weren’t there. We can speculate. There’s rumors about them trying to hold his incentives. So one could argue if they’re trying to hold your incentives, why wouldn’t you go in the game to produce? He’s hurt. He’s injured. If you’re injured, you can’t perform to get your incentives. If you’re let go, they can cut you. All of these weird rules come into play. Who knows? I’m not going to judge him on his past. The man left the game and wanted to go home. I ain’t mad at him. I’m not mad at AB. I wouldn’t have done it…
Very normal! A very normal exit from a game. Happens all the time.
Jennings: It would’ve been different if he exited through the stands or something. He went to the locker room and was trying to get a flight up out of there. I’ve been inside of a movie theater before and I got tired of watching the movie and I left.
There you go. No big deal.
Jennings: To me, it’s not a big deal! He didn’t want to play anymore. So, what’s he going to do? Sit on the sideline and irritate people.
It is on Tampa Bay, too. You shouldn’t be surprised that something like this could happen with Antonio Brown.
Jennings: You signed up for it. 100 percent. You’re not getting in the ring with Mike Tyson and confused why you’re getting knocked out. So, I’m not mad at AB, man. People like to quickly talk about his mental health and how he’s this and that. AB, for all we know, could be a genius. And he’s got everybody else tripping. He could have a master plan behind all this. He could have a brand coming out. There’s no telling what AB could be doing. So, I’m not going to judge that man at all. I hope he’s good. I hope he’s healthy. I hope he’s picked up. I hope he does what’s right for his family. Because at the end of the day, everybody else’s opinion is not going to matter.
I was just hoping he’d pull a George Costanza and just show up to work the next day like nothing happened.
Jennings: That’s what I want. That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it? I want to see a show out of it.
Where can people find you? What are you up to?
Jennings: I’m @Rashad Jennings on every platform available. Also, follow me on Twitch @RashadJennings23. I will be streaming and co-hosting Thursday Night Football Games all next season. I am hosting the Wild Card, too, this month. Just go to Twitch.com, type in Rashad Jennings, and you’ll see me. I’m having fun with life. I started an Esports organization so if you can game — if you consider yourself a gamer — hit me up.