SI PLAYERS NFL POLL (as it appears in the Oct. 31 issue)
Who is the fastest player in football?
- Chris Johnson, Titans RB….38%
- DeSean Jackson, Eagles WR….23%
- Mike Wallace, Steelers WR….12%
- Devin Hester, Bears WR/KR….3%
- Jacoby Ford, Raiders WR….3%
[Based on 316 NFL players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Johnson ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the NFL draft combine in 2008, the fastest mark since times became official, in 1999. Ford’s time at the 2010 combine (4.28) tied him with three other players as the second-fastest…. Michael Vick, who was voted No. 1 the last time SI polled on this subject, in 2006, was No. 6 (2%), even at age 31, and was the only QB to receive more than one vote…. Colts DE Dwight Freeney was the only lineman named more than once.
From a chair in Maysville Barber Shop in Mobile—where he goes to have his head shaved three or four times a week—JaMarcus Russell tells senior writer L. Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) his side of the story. Russell says that few people are aware of the factors that worked against him during his time with the Oakland Raiders, including:
- The death of 11 family members or friends, including uncle and father figure Ray Ray: “I went through so much no one knew about. Go to a funeral on Saturday, fly into the game on Sunday. Then I hear, ‘He doesn’t lead by example.’ Really?”
- What Russell regards as being betrayed by then coach Tom Cable: “I stuck my neck out for him. Didn’t complain when he benched me as the starter. Didn’t complain when he called the same plays five damn times. Didn’t [badmouth] him to other coaches. When the [media] asks me, I say, ‘He’s a good coach, a good guy.’ Then I hear he says I was the worst thing ever happened to the Raiders, if it weren’t for him we’d be in the playoffs?… It just got to where the game wasn’t fun for me.”
- The lack of support from his teammates: “Things weren’t going right, and it felt sometimes like everything fell back on me. I take some responsibility, but I was one guy…. I may have missed a throw, but I didn’t give up 42 points, I didn’t miss a block.”
Unbeknownst to many, Russell has given generously to his hometown of Mobile. He’s paid for turkeys at Thanksgiving food drives, bought supplies and library books for local schools and uniforms for local sports teams, underwritten the renovation for his church, built ramps for wheelchair-bound residents and rewarded kids with straight A’s with bikes, MP3 players and GoPhones. Russell says: “If I do go broke, it’s going to be from providing for my neighborhood and my family.” So why isn’t his charitable work better known? “My business is my business. That’s how I prefer it. I gotta look up to God. I don’t gotta look out to no damn news cameras!”
Paying homage to the life and work of one of the pillars of the modern NFL is a tall task, yet special contributor Richard Hoffer’s essay on the late Al Davis perfectly captures a man who remained a rebel to the end while forever altering the shape of pro football. Two of the extras in the tablet edition of this week’s Oct. 17 issue run in conjunction with Hoffer’s piece: a video tribute to Davis and the Dec. 2, 1974 magazine story “What the Raiders Have is Genius,” written by Dan Jenkins and serving as this week’s SI Digital Bonus.
Two of this week’s feature stories include highly informative hot spots. Writer-reporter Pablo S. Torre’s (@SIPabloTorre) story on walk-on football players includes pictures and descriptions of five players who started their collegiate careers without scholarships but still developed into alltime greats. Senior writer Chris Ballard’s (@SI_ChrisBallard) and author Owen Good’s profile of Kelly Jack Swift, “The Invisible Fastball,” also features a quintet of hot spots, which highlight the accomplishments of five baseball players who made legends of themselves in the minors but not in the big leagues.
There is also a photo gallery of the best shots from the American and National League Championship Series, Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) podcast interviews of both Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman, senior writer Jim Trotter’s (@SI_JimTrotter) predictions for Week 6 of the NFL and the latest edition of Just Askin’, featuring Auburn football coach Gene Chizik.