In this second and final part of our sit-down with running back Rashad Jennings, he speaks about his development into a leader—except he doesn’t quite view what he’s becoming as a leader. Read on to find out why.
Q: It sounds like you’re fast becoming a leader on offense.
A: I stay focused and I have tunnel vision, but I never will identify myself as a leader. Out of all the people I’ve ever respected, they’ve never proclaimed themselves as a leader or as being committed. They’ve gone and done their thing, and others have defined them as being committed and as being a leader.
Q: You’re a young veteran but some of your younger teammates say you’ve been a good source to study ideas and plays with. So if you’re teaching, you’re sort of leading, no?
A: I believe that there’s no point in learning unless you’re teaching, so along the way, I spend time with the younger guys showing them the tricks of the trade, how to understand the terminology and the finer points of football. I do take ownership in putting my best foot forward. How that’s identified by my teammates is up to them.
Q: What’s an approach you’ve taken in teaching a younger teammate this offense, especially since you’re still learning it yourself?
A: The first thing is to understand the difference between protections, which is the key to every offense. It’s like building a house. You don’t go furniture shopping until you know the house’s blueprint. Protection is the blue print on offense.
After you have the blueprint, you’re now defining how you want each room in the house to look. So by understanding he protection, understanding where the offensive linemen are going to be at, understanding what everyone else is doing, you can then find your place in the puzzle.
Q: What do you like about teaching your teammates?
A: I think it’s important to understand the concepts behind the plays. Breaking all of that down is something I’ve been doing with the younger running backs. Also by teaching it, I’m reiterating it to myself what I need to know t do my job. I’ve always believed that if you only spend the amount of time allotted (with the coaches in the classroom and at practice), you’re not going to last very long in this league.
So the first thing I did here was start a group text. We all have smart phones so I got everyone’s number and we have a group text. We discuss plays and ask each other ‘what do you have on this protection?” People answer, and we critique one another. We also laugh and joke—it’s a great way to build that chemistry.
Q: Is that something you did in Oakland?
A: Yes, we did it in Oakland. I created a group text with everyone in the room and obviously we have a little fun and all, but we are also learning from one another. We talk—I might have just finished watching film and saw something and I’ll mention it to the group which gets us talking.
Q: You say you don’t want to describe yourself as a leader, but you sure sound like one to me based on all these initiatives you’re taking on yourself.
A: Playing in the NFL is a privilege. No one’s forcing us to do this. So I treat this as a privilege and do what I can to make sure I can continue to enjoy this privilege.
The coaches call the plays and the players execute them. I don’t ever want to put a coach in a situation where it seems like he’s the one who’s not doing his job. Every coach here is doing his job, so we have to take ownership and do our job.
I believe that when you understand what the guy in front of you is doing, you’re able to run your brand of football instead of running like a robot.