Rashad Jennings #23 RB
Height: 6-1 Weight: 231 Age: 32
Born: 3/26/1985 Forest , VA
Experience: 9th season
High School: Liberty Christian Acad. [Lynchburg, Va]
Selected By: Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick (Overall): 41 (250)
Sometimes a change of scenery is best for a person, and that certainly was the case for Jennings. The 265-pound redshirt freshman at the University of Pittsburgh decided to leave the school in 2006 for "greener pastures," returning close to home by enrolling at Liberty University. He shed his backup tag and more than 35 pounds in preparation to take over the starting tailback duties, going on to establish numerous school and Big South Conference records before he concluded his collegiate career.
In three seasons at Liberty, Jennings set the league career records for yards gained rushing (3,633), placing second all-time for touchdown runs (42), rushing yardage average (5.74), rushing attempts (633) and all-purpose yardage (4,155). He also established a Big South mark with four games with at least three touchdown runs.
As a senior, he broke the Big South single-season records for most rushing attempts (263), most touchdown runs (17), most yards rushing (1,500) and best rushing average (136.36 ypg). His 1,690 all-purpose yards in 2008 rank second in league season annals (third with a 153.64 ypg average) while his average of 154.33 all-purpose yards per game in 2007 also placed second on that list.
Football has always been the "right of passage" in the Jennings household, as Rashad is about to become the third family member to play in the National Football League. His brother, Butch, played at Virginia Military Institute and Liberty before moving onto the NFL's New York Giants as a running back. Another brother, Bryan, was a tight end at Virginia Tech and later with the San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans.
At Lynchburg Liberty Christian Academy, Jennings' star shined brightly. The two-time All-Virginia Division II, All-Virginia Independent Conference and Lynchburg News and Advance all-area selection was rated one of the top 25 prospects in Virginia by Rivals100.com. He added Super Prep All-Mid Atlantic honors and was rated Virginia's 30th-best prospect by that recruiting service. He also garnered Prep Star All-Atlantic accolades as a tailback and linebacker.
Jennings combined for 3,287 yards and 56 touchdowns during his last two seasons, gaining 1,978 yards on 192 attempts (10.3 avg.) with 28 touchdowns rushing as a senior. He scored twice on six receptions for 146 yards and returned two interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns while posting 75 tackles on the defensive side of the ball, earning team MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors.
He led the team to a 10-1-1 record and a second-place finish in the Virginia Division II ranks in 2003. As a junior, he averaged 9.2 yards per carry, rushing for 1,309 yards on 142 attempts with 19 rushing touchdowns. He snared 15 passes for 285 yards, including three scores and also returned a fumble for a touchdown, helping the team compile an 8-3-0 record in 2002. He also lettered in basketball. He spent his first two seasons at Jefferson Forest High before transferring for his junior and senior seasons.
Jennings enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in 2004, but deferred his enrollment until January 2005 due to academic issues and poor conditioning. He participated in 2005 spring drills and went on to play in eight games that year. He finished second on the Panthers squad with 411 yards and a touchdown on 86 carries (4.8 avg.), catching five passes for 35 yards.
Jennings decided to transfer to Liberty for the 2006 season. Because his father was battling diabetes and he didn't want the burden of caring for him to fall squarely with the rest of his family, he decided to be closer to his home in Virginia. One day, his brother, Butch, opened the door to his home. Standing there soaking wet from sweat was his younger brother. Rashad had run and walked 18 miles from his mother's home in Forest to his brother's home in Lynchburg.
Expectations had followed Rashad, thanks to the college football success of his two older brothers. But he wasn't particularly motivated to follow in their footsteps. Rashad had become a mama's boy early in high school, Butch said, "a big baby" who sat around the house with no direction. "I saw his GPA," Butch said. "He had no GPA."
Rashad Jennings was "a fat and chubby kid" -- his words -- who needed to be pushed and given a vision of what he could become. His weight, once 268 pounds, is now 231. His body fat, once 16 percent, is 5.5. His 40-yard dash time, once 4.67, is 4.4. "We've certainly had a lot of (NFL scouts) come through here to evaluate him," Liberty coach Danny Rocco said. "Everybody who has come through here likes him. ... I think he's got a great chance to make it because he's got all the tools."
Jennings earned All-Big South Conference first-team and All-Region third-team honors in his first year at Liberty. He started nine contests, leading the team while ranking second in the conference with 1,020 yards and 10 touchdowns on 179 carries (5.7 avg.). His average of 97.82 all-purpose yards placed fourth in the league.
Jennings was forced to sit out the first two games of the 2007 season by the NCAA for a rules violation. When he returned, he played with a vengeance, earning league Player of the Week honors four times en route to being named Big South Offensive Player of the Year.
The All-American honorable mention led the league with 1,113 yards on 191 chances (5.8 avg.) that included a then-Big South single-season record 15 touchdown runs. He also became more involved in the passing game, scoring twice on 13 receptions for 276 yards (21.2 avg.), placing second in the conference and 25th in the nation with an average of 154.33 all-purpose yards per game, the second-best season average in Big South annals.
In 2008, the Big South Conference Player of the Year became just the second player in league history to become a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the FCS ranks. The consensus All-American collected a school and league single-season record 1,500 yards, setting Big South annual marks with 263 carries (5.7 avg.) and 17 touchdowns.
Jennings pulled down 24 passes for 190 yards and two scores, ranking sixth in the nation with an average of 10.36 points scored per game. He also led the Big South and ranked 16th nationally, as he averaged 153.64 all-purpose yards per game, setting another league record with an average of 136.36 yards per game rushing.