Raiders

/ by Josh Schrock
Presented By NFLDraft2019
Raiders

On Thursday night, 32 men had their dreams of playing in the NFL realized when commissioner Roger Goodell called their names during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

It's a life-changing moment for every player who walks on that stage and shakes Goodell's hand. The culmination of years of hard work, dedication and perseverance.

For new Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, it was even more than that.

Oakland selected Jacobs, the do-it-all Alabama back, with the No. 24 overall pick. For Jacobs, it was a sign that what his father always told him -- that everything will work out if you do things the right way and persevere --  was true.

Jacobs, who grew up in Tulsa, Okla., detailed his tough childhood in an article on The Players' Tribune posted Thursday, just before the draft.

When Jacobs was in fourth grade, his parents split up, and he went to live with his father. While his father's new apartment was being made ready, they slept on relatives' couches and, eventually, his father's Suburban. Jacobs would shower after football practice, and his father would drive around looking for a spot to park the car for the night, always sleeping with a gun on his chest to protect his son.

They eventually moved into the apartment, but the good times didn't last for Jacobs and his family.

 

"We slept in that Suburban every night for maybe two weeks until the apartment was finally ready," Jacobs writes. "We moved in, and a couple of months later, my dad won custody of my three brothers and my sister, and they moved in with us, too.

"Then, my dad lost his job."

For the next two years, Jacobs and his father and siblings went from motel to motel, living out of their backpacks and eating mainly white rice and ramen noodles. When money was really tight, Jacobs' father wouldn't eat.

"I didn’t really understand it all at the time — the way we were living, the sacrifices my dad was making … none of it. I just never looked at our life as a struggle," Jacobs wrote. "To me, it was just life. It was all I knew."

Despite his frustration and family's desperation, Jacobs' father never turned to drug dealing, which would have been the easy way to make money. He wanted to do right by his kids.

"He said he would never do it, for two reasons," Jacobs wrote. "One, it was too risky. If he got arrested or sent to jail, there would be nobody to take care of us kids, and he might lose us. And that was out of the question.

"And two … he said that the easy way out usually isn’t the right way. He said it’s hard work and perseverance that gets rewarded, not shortcuts."

[RELATED: Jacobs reveals he picked draft-night shoes with Raiders in mind]

That's what Jacobs did. He worked hard and ran even harder. For his dad and his siblings.

But, most importantly, because he loves the game of football.

After those two years, Jacobs' father landed a steady job and was able to get a house. Money still was tight, but they no longer were moving from motel to motel.

Jacobs was a star on the gridiron in high school, putting up absurd numbers. So absurd, in fact, that the local newspaper refused to print them because they believed his coach was making them up.

During his senior season, Jacobs still had zero scholarship offers and zero stars on the recruiting websites. Even after he put up 455 yards and six touchdowns on just 22 carries in a game covered by the local paper, he still received no interest.

Then, a man named G. Smith from Texas called Jacobs' father asking to help get his son recruiting interest. He had come across Jacobs' highlight-reel and wanted to help. He had Jacobs create a Twitter account to post his highlights, and took care of the rest.

The offers started coming in, but once Nick Saban and Alabama came knocking, it was a wrap.

"Everybody knows Alabama for being a football factory," Jacobs wrote. "For putting dudes in the NFL left and right. But I didn’t look at it that way. I saw it as an opportunity to play against the most elite competition in college football, and to get a quality education at the same time.

 

"Where I’m from, kids don’t get either of those opportunities. So that was all I was focused on. Getting to the NFL was the absolute furthest thing from my mind."

But during his final season at Alabama, Jacobs became the star of the Crimson Tide's crowded backfield. He rushed for 83 yards and two scores while having the flu during the SEC Championship Game. 

During the next game -- the Capital One Orange Bowl against Oklahoma -- Jacobs went wild, running for 98 yards on 15 carries and catching four balls for 60 yards and two scores.

The NFL was sure to come calling, and on Thursday night, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden did.

[RELATED: Grades for Raiders' three first-round picks]

Jacobs' running style -- hard and powerful -- makes him an attractive prospect, but it's his attitude that should excite the Raiders and their fans.

"I run for my pops, the man who sacrificed so much and worked so hard to provide for me and educate me," Jacobs wrote. "I run for my three-year-old son, Braxton, so he can have a father he’s proud of, like I’m proud of mine. I run for my sister and my three brothers. I run for my teammates and my coaches. I run for everybody who has ever supported me, anyone who’s ever doubted me, and for anyone out there living on white rice and ramen noodles. I run for anyone who’s in a tough situation and feels like it’s never going to end — that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

"I run to show them that there is."

With Marshawn Lynch reportedly hanging up his cleats for a second time, Jacobs is expected to become the featured back in Oakland.

Expect him to run hard and work harder.