ALAMEDA – Fullbacks are an endangered species. The old bruisers of the past have been exchanged for extra receivers or tight ends as the NFL gets more pass-happy.
There is still a place for versatile players, and the Raiders have one in Jamize Olawale. He’s a physical presence who can act like a lead blocker/short-yardage runner/pass protector, yet has enough speed to burn you for leaving him open.
The Houston Texans learned that the hard way.
They didn’t account for Olawale late in Monday night’s game and paid for it, as Derek Carr found him for what became a 75-yard touchdown reception that turned the tides toward a 27-20 victory for the Silver and Black.
“I think it was a well-designed play to put the safety and the cornerback in a bind,” Olawale said before Wednesday’s practice. “They had to play (Amari) Cooper, myself or (Mychal) Rivera. You have to pick your poison. It was a perfectly placed ball.”
Olawale secured possession, stepped inside a lunging tackler and sprinted for the goal line. Nobody caught up.
The fourth-year pro has sneaky speed, and ran away from the competition. That’s rare for a fullback to show running-back speed.
“When you break off a big one like that he’s going to think he has the upper hand (winning a foot race),” running back Latavius Murray said with a smile. “I’m still going to say I’m the fastest in that position group. We can figure it out in the offseason if they want to.”
Olawale is one of the coaching staff’s favorites, someone who does significant dirty work on offense and special teams.
“He’s quiet, he’s funny and he works extremely hard,” quarterback Derek Carr said. ”So, whenever you have a guy like that having success, everyone in the locker room feels good for him.”
Olawale’s a grinder who signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 and was added to the Raiders roster in December of that year. The San Francisco native played wide receiver at North Texas after two years at El Camino junior college.
He has found a home in Oakland as a versatile offensive option, one given a three-year contract extension last season.
Olawale has carved a unique role here, one trusted to do a ton. He doesn’t mind that most of it occurs off the stat sheet, and doesn’t relish in efforts that do.
“I enjoy winning,” Olawale said. “Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m all for it. That’s my goal every week. Sometimes I’m focused on blocking or catching passes or running the ball.”