By Casey Gisclair
As the 2015 football season approaches, the DIG Sports staff decided to take a look back and rank the top ten LSU players of the Les Miles era (2005-present). The Tigers have had 64 players drafted into the NFL with Miles at the helm, and the program led all schools with 38 former players on active NFL rosters during the opening weekend of the 2014 season.
No. 7 JaMarcus Russell
Eye-Popping Stat: Russell threw a football 60 yards at the NFL Scouting Combine on one knee.
NFL draft: 2007 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1 / Oakland Raiders
When young redshirt freshman quarterback JaMarcus Russell received his championship ring following the 2003 BCS National Championship Game, he didn’t wear it.
Instead, Russell put the ring away and proclaimed that he wanted to earn one himself as a starting quarterback for the Tigers.
That goal never became a reality, but in the midst of trying, Russell became one of the best quarterbacks in LSU history—a player good enough to earn the honor of being the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
From the moment that JaMarcus Russell verbally committed to the LSU football program on National Signing Day in 2003, fans had a pretty good idea that he’d be a star.
Standing 6-feet, 5-inches and weighing upwards of 255 pounds, Russell looked like a star. He acted like a star. Russell’s personality was always one that oozed with confidence. His words were chosen wisely, and he never shied away from saying that he believed in his abilities.
And Russell played like a star, possessing one of the most powerful right arms that LSU has ever seen.
After his redshirt season in 2003, Russell was a huge part of LSU’s plans for the following three seasons.
In 2004, Russell shared time with Marcus Randall, and showed flashes of brilliance. The freshman completed 73-of-144 passes for 9 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. In his first game, Russell led the Tigers in a come from behind win against a pesky Oregon State team.
But Russell was inconsistent as a freshman, which led then-LSU coach Nick Saban to often turn to Randall in high-pressure situations. But from 2005-06 under new-coach Les Miles, Russell thrived and never looked back.
In 2005, Russell became a college football star. Under the quarterback’s leadership, the Tigers won the SEC Western Division Championship, despite battling the turmoil brought on by Hurricane Katrina. Katrina swept through Louisiana, which greatly altered both LSU’s playing and practice schedule.
The Tigers’ first game against Arizona St. was moved from Death Valley to Tempe, AZ. Russell completed a deep pass late in the fourth quarter to seal a comeback victory. In that same season, Russell famously housed New Orleans music legend Fats Domino, who escaped from the lower 9th Ward after Katrina’s landfall.
In 2006, the powerful quarterback was dominant, completing 232-of-342 passes for 3,129 yards and 28 touchdowns. Russell’s last game in college was a stroke of brilliance, a dominant showing in a blowout of Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl – a game that gave LSU momentum that it carried over into 2007’s BCS Championship season.
Of course, Russell’s professional career didn’t go as planned. Despite being the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Russell only played three seasons with Oakland before being released. Pro career aside, Russell was an unquestioned LSU star and easily one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the program.
Even if he never wore his 2003 National Championship ring.