Nearly four years after JaMarcus Russell(notes) became the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, his playing career may have completely bottomed out after "life coach" John Lucas asked Russell to leave Houston recently, two sources close to the quarterback told Yahoo! Sports.
Russell, 25, and Lucas had been working together since September in hopes of getting Russell into shape for a return to the NFL. The aforementioned sources say Russell, released by the Oakland Raiders last May, initially worked hard, but quickly lost motivation. Recently Lucas tired of trying to get Russell, the top pick in 2007, to respond to instruction and assistance.
Lucas did not return several phone messages left for him, and agents Eric Metz and Ethan Locke did not want to discuss Russell's condition. However, the sources said Russell's lack of effort had driven even Lucas, who has made a career of helping athletes and others with drug and addiction problems, to the point of frustration.
In addition to Lucas, TNT analyst and former NBA star Charles Barkley tried to motivate Russell, according to one of the sources. Both Barkley and Russell are from Alabama, prompting the Hall of Famer to take an interest in Russell.
"The title of your article should be, 'It's Over,' " the same source said. "It's just amazing that you could say that about somebody who is 25 years old and just got drafted four years ago. But it's been almost a year since he got cut and there's no interest. Even before the lockout, nobody wanted to get near the kid."
The most telling moment may have come in January when, according to the source, Baltimore Ravens president Ozzie Newsome, also an Alabama native, refused a request to meet with Russell. Newsome was in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. Russell grew up in Mobile and was there at the time. The hope of the meeting was to find a way to motivate Russell by meeting Newsome, one of the top executives in the NFL and a Hall of Famer as a player.
Russell, who lost his starting job in Oakland prior to his release and was arrested in July for possession of a controlled substance, cemented his reputation for poor work habits with two unimpressive showings at workouts with the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins in November. Russell showed up for the Redskins workout on Nov. 2 weighing 288 pounds. Two weeks later, Russell showed up for the workout with the Dolphins weighing 292 pounds.
Lucas became increasingly frustrated with Russell starting in December, when Russell's work habits continued to deteriorate.
After being the top pick, Russell missed all of training camp as a rookie in a contract dispute before signing a six-year, $62 million contract including $31 million guaranteed money.
"It's such a waste of talent," the source said. "It's hard to believe a guy with that much ability could let it just waste. It's sad. … It's like they say, you can't coach desire."