Josh Jacobs had an award-worthy rookie season. The Raiders and their fans can attest to that.
The No. 24 overall pick from the 2019 NFL was dominant in his first year out of Alabama, proving he can produce steadily with a heavy workload. He had a 4.8-yard average over 242 carries, with a large portion executed working with a fractured shoulder suffered in Week 7.
Family, friends and fans weren’t the only ones keeping close tabs. Fellow Crimson Tide running backs now in the NFL were impressed by the latest addition to a small, yet proud fraternity.
The active list includes Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram and Kenyan Drake, with others in less prominent roles.
The older guys came away wowed by Jacobs’ rookie year.
“I definitely followed what Josh was doing. I try to keep up with everybody who played at Alabama, especially the running backs because we have that special bond,” Henry said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area during Super Bowl week. “What Josh was able to do was remarkable. I tried to keep up with him every week, and I saw a guy who was physical and made big plays. He’s a big part of the offense.
"He had a great year and he showed me that he’ll be able to do that for years to come.”
Rest should get his shoulder back to full strength this offseason, where he can prep for a 2020 Raiders season played in Las Vegas. He won’t be sneaking up on anyone after a rookie year where he earned tremendous respect, but he proved efficient last season even when the whole world knew he was running.
Jacobs is a tough runner between the tackles and in space. He’s good near the goal line and is a solid receiver out of the backfield who deserves more opportunities in that role.
Drake saw a complete package able to do it all, a point of pride for him after Jacobs shared the workload with Damien Harris in college.
"I always try to keep up with the backs from my school and players I have gotten to know well. It’s a tight-knit community,” Drake said in 1-on-1 with NBC Sports Bay Area. “I love what Josh was able to accomplish this year. He’s a humble guy who works hard and it shows when he’s out on the field. He plays that way because I feel like he thinks he has a lot to prove, from the way he lived and what he witnessed growing up.
"I love to see that passion displayed in the way he plays. You can just tell it means a little more to him.”
Jacobs went through some rough times during his childhood, living with his dad and siblings in cars or motels while struggling to make ends meet. Jacobs' work ethic, talent, draft status and an excellent rookie year has put him in position to buy his father a house this offseason and change lives for those in his family.
Jacobs turned 22 year old on Tuesday, leaving plenty of time to build an elite career off an excellent rookie foundation and keep up with Henry and Ingram and Drake as Alabama rushers thriving in the pros.
“Anytime I catch up with those guys, it’s always a good thing,” Drake said. “It’s mostly through social media or text messages, but I saw Josh recently. It was great to catch up with him as well. It’s a testament to the guys who choose Alabama. We all know that it’s going to be a tough task to play because there’s pretty much always one back on the field at a time.
"So many talented guys go there and have to wait in the wings, like me or Josh. You just wait your turn, learn from those older than you and make the most of the opportunities you do have. When we have reached the league, we have been able to show the hard work and dedication we learned at the university.”