Giants Running Back Making a Name for Himself in New York
Playing at a position that's dependent on footwork, Rashad Jennings has quickly gained traction in his new lead as the New York Giants starting running back saying, "I'm fighting to prove that I'm a complete back. That is somebody who can catch the ball out the backfield. Knows how to protect the quarterback. Do everything. Fourth and one, fourth and goal, third and long, second and short. There's no reason to come off the field."
Both versatile and ready, he's a renaissance man in cleats. His teammates have playfully nicknamed him, 'Quote'. "One that I stand strongly by is: 'the master in the art of living shows little distinction between his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his love and his religion. He simply pursues excellence at everything he does, leaving others to determine whether he's working, or is he playing. But to him, he's always doing both,'" says Jennings, quoting author James Michener.
After playing four years in Jacksonville and one in Oakland, Rashad came to New York as a free agent. Rashad explains, "I'm curious about a lot of things in life. Being in New York City, I'm just like a kid, getting to know the minds of some of the people who are responsible for the things we see daily. He's been preparing me everywhere He's taken me. And now to be in New York, as a Giant! I've had to overcome many giants to now actually become a Giant. And so I'm thrilled. I'm humbled. I'm excited that God wanted me in New York for whatever reason. But I definitely see His hand on my life."
So what is it about the NFL platform that accentuates his spiritual growth? The six-year NFL veteran says, "Distractions help me grow. You're either going to be distracted or you're going to distract somebody. If I recognize distractions, it's a good thing. I only can recognize them when I'm headed in a right direction. I try my hardest to live from a reference of scriptures and let that be my mirror. Every day I got to be able to look in the mirror and say that's the guy that I'm trying to become. I always tell people, 'there's nothing special about me. It's I'm in a special position.'"
But the positioning comes from a place of strength after Rashad maneuvered around and through childhood obstacles. Rashad remembers, "I was hospitalized. I was close to my deathbed because of asthma. (I) barely could breathe. The doctors told me that I'd never be able to play sports. I cried. That was a tough moment in my life. Through prayer and determination I woke up one day and said, 'I'm going to run. And get in shape to the point where I can outrun asthma.'"
And he has. With no setbacks! His breathtaking success has since become a second wind of encouragement for those overcoming medical hardships. "Rashad means 'wise counselor'", says Rashad, "I think we all, at some point in life, find our shoes being inside a counselor. It's just whether we're aware or take an ownership over it in that particular time."
Rashad's time came as a freshman while in college at Pitt, when his dad lost his legs to diabetes. Rashad returned home to Lynchburg, Virginia, transferring to Liberty University where he had a distinguished collegiate career. "When my father had his legs amputated, I couldn't do nothing but cry. I couldn't even fathom not having legs. And doing what I do for a living as a running back, it would be impossible." Rashad adds, "Every time I see my father or see a picture of him, I'm always reminded that I have them. And so I must run. In life I'm always going to be running. Cause of the things I had to overcome."
For an NFL rusher whose legs run hard and thoughts run deep, you'd think a New York arrival meant his career was finally hitting stride. But not Rashad! Hitting his stride came from that very first lesson when he learned never to be caught flatfooted. "When opportunity presents itself, it's too late to prepare for it, 'cuz that opportunity's in that moment," Rashad insists.
Rashad learned a valuable lesson during one high school game! He remembers, "I was the short, fat, dorky kid with glasses and asthma. I rode the bench. I didn't have anything looking up. Like I really did not play! We're playing against our high school rival. They went through variations of injuries so they absolutely had nobody else to turn to. I remember the coach yelling, 'Rashad! Get in the game! Get in the game!' Go in, first play, first carry, 30-yard touchdown. 14 plays and I scored 4 touchdowns, 2 on offense and 2 on defense. And at the end of that game, that Tennessee scout who came to watch the starting tailback, he pulled me aside and said 'Rashad, I couldn't help but notice you. You got potential'. It all goes back now to when opportunity presents itself, when nobody's looking, I'm always preparing."
Rashad is always learning with a self-taught discipline that started in college, saying, "I'm always trying to figure out how do people do what they do. I wanted to pick up a new craft, outside of what I was learning and outside of football. I taught myself how to write with my left hand, played the guitar, learn every card trick I could figure out. Why not? We will never be 100% excellence. But there are moments in our life we can exercise being excellent. And that's only because of the love of Christ. They're thinking, 'I have to be perfect. I have to! I have to!' And the measure of it and what it looks like. The perfection was lined in grace for us to fall in mercy and understand who Christ is."
Rashad Jennings! The thought-provoking running back, whose steps follow his Savior in a never-ending run, declaring Jesus Christ as the Savior who wins him over daily, saying, "I see a Man who was perfect. I see a Man who knew where He was going. (He) wasn't ashamed to live for something bigger than Himself, who wasn't fixated on deteriorating anybody's faith to bolster His. But He was so convicted in His faith that He made everybody else question theirs. He's a Man of love. He exemplifies it. And He's somebody that I want to follow."