Few quarterbacks in college football history possessed the raw talent that JaMarcus Russell did. Joe Burrow was terrific, but he wasn’t 6-foot-6 or 265 pounds and didn’t nearly contain the cannon that Russell did. Remember the rumors of a 70-yard throw from his knees?
Russell was highly touted coming out of Williamson High School in Mobile, Alabama. The four-star quarterback was rated the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country, and decided to take his talents to head coach Nick Saban’s LSU Tigers.
By the first game of the 2004 season, LSU fans were already clamoring for the monstrous freshman waiting on the sidelines to enter the game. Russell’s legendary NCAA career began with a bang.
LSU-Oregon State 2004
Louisiana State University was coming off its second-ever national championship in 2003. Quarterback Matt Mauck was no longer donning the purple and gold, and senior Marcus Randall received the first crack at the starting gig in the team’s first game in ’04.
Oregon State came out firing against LSU in Death Valley. They took a 9-0 lead at halftime, during which LSU had thrown for just 39 passing yards and was 0-for-7 on third-down conversions.
Saban and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher needed someone to kickstart the offense, and they called upon JaMarcus Russell.
JaMarcus Russell’s First TD
As Russell warmed up on the sideline after the half, announcers and fans wondered if he would actually replace Randall.
“JaMarcus Russell warming up on the sideline. I don’t know if this means that he’s coming on this opening series. I would be surprised if he did,” one announcer said.
“Here he comes. The big freshman out of Mobile, Alabama, and listen to this crowd,” he continued.
Russell threw his first touchdown, a dime in the corner of the end zone, to wide receiver Skyler Green. The 16-yard touchdown was just the start of Russell’s brilliance despite battling cramps during the game.
Down 15-7 with a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Russell fired a strike to Dwayne Bowe for a 58-yard score. LSU needed two points to tie the game, and Russell naturally ran it in himself to send the game to overtime.
Russell couldn’t finish the game because he was cramping so badly, but Randall scored the game-winning touchdown as the Beavers missed an extra point to give the Tigers the 22-21 win.
Russell would go on to split snaps with Randall the rest of the season. He took over the starting role in 2005 and broke out in 2006, leading the Oakland Raiders to select him with the first-overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Though the No. 1 pick never lived up to expectations in the NFL, he cemented himself as a legend in Baton Rouge. That all began with his first touchdown against Oregon State.