- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

NEW YORK — Only when he received the text message and phone call from his new team, put on the baseball cap, held up the No. 1 jersey and then looked up at the fourth level of a packed Radio City Music Hall did the enormity of the moment finally register in the mind of LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

Russell — not Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn or Georgia Tech star receiver Calvin Johnson — was the first pick in the NFL Draft, chosen by the Oakland Raiders to help resuscitate a floundering franchise.

“I’ve watched the draft on TV for quite some time and just to be standing up there with the commissioner and seeing all of the fans, that’s when it really hit me,” Russell said after becoming the 16th quarterback since 1967 to go first overall.

Following Russell, Johnson (Detroit), Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas (Cleveland), Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams (Tampa Bay) and Penn State left tackle Levi Brown (Arizona) closed out the top five. The Washington Redskins chose LSU safety LaRon Landry with the sixth pick.

Surprise top-10 selections were defensive end Jamaal Anderson (eighth to Atlanta) and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (ninth to Miami).

Quinn slid all the way to No. 22, when he was selected by Cleveland, which gave away a second-round pick this year and next year’s first-rounder to Dallas.

As expected, only two quarterbacks went in a first round dominated by defensive linemen and defensive backs (seven apiece).

The first round lasted a record six hours, eight minutes, prompting commissioner Roger Goodell to quip, “This is not a record we want to break.”

Since his super Sugar Bowl performance, Russell was the consensus top selection, especially for the quarterback-poor Raiders and their owner, Al Davis, who likes a passer who can toss the deep ball.

“There was no doubt in our mind this was the direction we wanted to go,” Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said. “The film made it great, made it real easy. But it’s more than the film. He has to lead this offense, he has to lead this team. That’s what the quarterback does. …When you went down to the pro day and you watched him work out and you watched the players around him before he worked out, and how they responded to him, it was very obvious that this guy is a natural leader.”

Russell said he didn’t have any pre-draft day jitters.

“To be honest, I was knocked out,” he said. “It really didn’t hit me last night. I just thought, ‘The faster I get to sleep, the quicker tomorrow will come.’

“Everybody had been talking about [the Raiders picking me] for awhile so I kind of had some faith it would happen.”

Although not considered as NFL ready as Quinn, Russell has to only beat out Andrew Walter to start for the Raiders.

“I have to prove myself once and for all,” Russell said. “I have to let the guys know that I’ve come there to work and I will do anything and everything possible to help them and put them in position to make plays.”

With the second pick, Detroit picked Johnson, the fourth time this decade they have used a top-10 pick on a receiver. Charles Rogers and Mike Williams haven’t panned out. The Lions hope Johnson and Roy Williams will form a potent combination.

“Calvin Johnson is going to team with the rest of this offense and turn it into one of the most dynamic offenses in this league. I firmly believe that,” Millen said. “You can scoff at it if you like. I really don’t care, because I think it’s going to happen.”

Said Johnson: “I’ve definitely been put into a great situation with [offensive coordinator Mike Martz]. The last few years, it may not have worked out for them, but I’m sure my situation will.”

The first curveball of the day came when Cleveland passed over home-state hero Quinn and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson in favor of Thomas, who spent the day fishing with his father on Lake Michigan, a family tradition for several years.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Thomas said. “I hoped for a few months that Cleveland would pick me. They showed a lot of interest in me all the way along.”

Initially the pick was seen as a vote of confidence toward quarterback Charlie Frye. Only later did the Browns acquire a second pick to draft Quinn.

Tampa Bay, which couldn’t work out a deal with Detroit to move up two spots and snag Johnson, made Adams the first defensive player drafted. Arizona followed by solidifying its offensive line by slightly reaching for Brown, who the Cardinals likely still would have been available in the middle of the round.

The Redskins did as expected and Minnesota used the seventh pick to choose Peterson, who will team with running back Chester Taylor.

“I think playing with a guy like Chester will help me a lot, just learning the ins and outs from him and getting his guidance,” he said. “It’s a team that when I visited them emphasized that they love to run the ball.”

Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino drafted Anderson instead of Amobi Okoye, whom he coached at Louisville. The Texans drafted Okoye at No. 10, following the Dolphins’ reach to take Ginn.

In addition to Cleveland, San Francisco — in a deal with New England — acquired a second first-round pick and took Central Michigan offensive tackle Joe Staley.

Defensive tackle Alan Branch, receiver Dwayne Jarrett and linebacker Paul Posluszny fell out of the first round. Branch went No. 33 to Arizona and Posluszny No. 34 to Buffalo.

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