Special to the AmNews
It was a press conference emotionally and reflectively unlike the cliche-filled gatherings that journalists have become accustomed to covering. New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings, less than 30 minutes removed from setting a career high with 176 yards rushing on 34 carries, leading his team to a 30-17 victory over the Houston Texans, spoke purely from the heart.
He shared his journey of being a self-described “overweight, chubby kid,” suffering from asthma and laboring in classrooms with horrific grades while in high school, registering 270 pounds on the scales as an afterthought on the football team at Liberty in Lynchburg, Va.
The interview room, a short walk from the turf at MetLife Stadium, was stocked with veteran reporters, many of whom were moved by Jennings’s narrative of how, through prayer, perseverance and a desire to honor his family, he stared down those obstacles and emerged as an elite prep running back before becoming only the fourth true freshman at the University of Pittsburg to start at the aforementioned position.
Feeling the need to be closer to his family, in 2006, Jennings transferred, ironically, to Division I-AA Liberty University back in Lynchburg, where he surfaced as one of the best running backs in the history of the Big South conference.
Sunday, Jennings, who was signed by the Giants in the offseason after playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2013, channeled all of his feelings into playing for his father, Albert Jennings, a one-time high school football standout who passed up a scholarship offer from Nebraska to help support his family, now a double leg amputee because of diabetes.
Jennings called his father, who lives in Richmond, Va., and said, “I want to play for you.” He gave his teammates a compelling pregame talk. “Whatever reason you play this game, play like that,” he implored them.
“He doesn’t have legs,” Jennings said of his father, “so today I remembered I do have them.” His legs helped the 1-2 Giants earn their first win of the season. He hopes they keep churning, and a rejuvenated offensive line keeps blocking, and maybe they’ll get another win tonight versus Washington.