While he may refer to himself as a country boy from Forest, Virginia, there's
so much more to Rashad Jennings. And as a result, the personable and
highly-talented running back out of Liberty University is going to be among the
top running backs selected April when NFL teams add new talent to their rosters
during NFL Draft weekend.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound rusher has amazing speed and quickness for his
size. And he's a complete back who can catch balls out of the backfield or hold
his own while blocking to defend his quarterback. Jenning's got a package of skills
and attributes that draws comparisons to one of last year's rookie sensations,
Bears running back Matt Forte.
"It's an advantage to have size and quickness," Jennings told Scout.com
during an exclusive interview. "I've always been a bigger guy, I've always
been able to shock people, even on the basketball court while just playing
around. When people would see my size, they would just assume that I wasn't
going to be a speed guy, or a guy who could make people miss on the open field.
"That's a big part of my game, being explosive, being able to make the
long runs in addition to the short, necessary ones. I pride myself in being a
complete back who can stay on the field on third-down-and-long to pick up the
blitzer or to catch a pass out of the backfield."
Photo: Liberty University Athletics
Jennings began his collegiate football career at the University of Pittsburgh
in 2005, starting as a true freshman in the season-opener for the Panthers. He
finished the season as the second-leading rusher with 411 yards and with a
bright future ahead of him. But when his father faced serious complications from his battle
with diabetes, Jennings decided to transfer to a school closer to home to
provide support and care along with the rest of his family. Although Liberty was
just a short drive from his family's home, his decision to take the chance of
moving to a less well-known football program was influenced by more than
"I looked at Liberty, James Madison and the University of Virginia
because all these schools were kind of close," Jennings explained. "At
that time, Liberty's coach, Coach Karcher, was using the spread offense and they
were trying to throw as much as possible. So at first, I was looking at UVA and
"But then I talked to Coach Rocco, the assistant head coach at UVA, and he told me about how he was going
to be leaving to be the new head coach at Liberty. He and I talked
for three hours. He let me know his vision for the program and I let him know
about my passion for the game—and we just clicked."
Jennings made the adjustment to Liberty's playbook and offensive scheme
quickly, but that wouldn't have surprised anyone who knew him since he had an
ongoing passion for introducing new experiences into his life. While pursuing a
double-major in Sports Management and Business, Jennings used what little spare
time he had available to learn a wide variety of skills that would challenge him
in different ways.
"I had decided that every semester in college I was going to pick up
something new. My first semester, I picked up the piano. I tried to
learn how to play it, but I really didn't get it," he said. "The next semester,
I decided to learn every card trick there is to know. Then I picked up the
guitar and found that I love acoustic
guitar. The following semester I decided to try to learn to write with my left
"I just picked up something different, simple stuff that every semester I
would do just for fun. I'm one of those guys who just loves life."
Jennings quickly became a leader at Liberty because of his on-the-field
commitment and his personal demeanor. He was a team captain all three seasons,
increasing his offensive output annually from better than 1,000 yards rushing
his sophomore season to 1,500 yards last year. During that senior campaign,
Jennings scored a total of 19 touchdowns, averaged 5.7 yards per carry and
caught 24 passes for 190 yards. His consistency and well-rounded skill set
earned him an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, validating his stature as
one of the nation's top running backs.
"It was a great opportunity to not only showcase
your talent, but to be able to prove that you can play against that
competition." Jennings said. "I learned a lot from the coaches,
especially Coach K.P. (Kennedy Pola),
the running backs coach for the Jaguars. For example,
we were just running a route against the linebackers and he pulled me aside
because I didn't get as much separation as I wanted. He showed me a
technique to use the next time I ran that route. We ran it again, I ran down the
field, got wide open and caught the ball and scored. It was a great experience to
learn from top-notch pro coaches."
Photo: Liberty University Athletics
One of Jennings' brothers, Butch, is a youth pastor who also played running
back in college. His other brother, Brian, was a tight end and long-snapper for
the San Francisco 49ers. Both have had a profound influence on him as well.
"They're the two hardest coaches I've ever had
in my life. That's why I love them," he said. "They've been
preparing me mentally for this next stage, what to expect, what not to expect. They've been a tremendous
While the duo has been essential to his success, Jennings ultimately draws
his strength and focus from his personal faith as he continues to work each day
to realize his NFL dream.
"I'm no fool, I understand that God gave me this talent for a reason and
that's what keeps me humble about any kind of achievements I've ever made,"
he said. "It's nothing that I'm doing, it's what he instilled in me, the
passion he gave to me to play this sport and turn around and glorify him. It's
definitely a huge factor in who I am today."
Jennings believes that he's been able to stay focused throughout the hectic
pace of his collegiate career due to a unique perspective that allows him to
look at life a bit differently than most people. And it's that perspective,
along with his natural talent and work ethic, that will help him be successful
as he sorts through a wide variety of new challenges that are inherent to a
professional football career.
"It's sort of like when I take a ride in a plane and I look down at the earth.
From up there it makes me wonder why
life is so difficult and has so much chaos, because when you look at it from above
it looks so simple, like it should be so easy," he said. "I believe
part of the reason for that is because you're looking at it from a higher point.
"From that perspective, you can take
yourself out of all of the chaos. You can answer the questions of what you need to
do and what you don't need to do to get to your destination and achieve your
dreams. But if you're looking at it from
a low point, it's very hard to see through all the junk and sometimes you get off
track. Having God in my life really keeps me on track."
Click here to go to Rashad Jenning's player profile page at Scout.com.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features
are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter for NFL updates and insights. And you can contact him by email
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