Jalen Richard, three other undrafted Raiders rookies, ready to prove their worth
ALAMEDA — Despite a productive training camp and lots of positive feedback, Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard spent cut-down day nervously looking at the time as he hoped to avoid a bad-news phone call from general manager Reggie McKenzie or coach Jack Del Rio.
“I was looking at the clock like, ‘Man, it’s not 1 o’clock yet and Jack and Reggie haven’t told me,’ ” Richard said Tuesday. “I was like, ‘No, no, no. I still got to get to 1 o’clock.’ I was still nervous.”
The deadline passed Saturday and Richard received the good news. Despite being overlooked back in the spring when 253 other players were selected in the NFL draft, Richard overcame the odds and made the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
He had some company on the Raiders, who kept four undrafted rookies in all on their 53-man roster, with wide receiver Johnny Holton, cornerback Antonio Hamilton and defensive lineman Darius Latham also making the team.
In all, Oakland has 13 players on its 53-man roster who weren’t drafted by any team.
“I called mom and teared up, mom and dad,” Richard said. “I had to call them. Everybody has a story. I come from Alexandria, (Louisiana), small town, not a lot of people make it out of the city.”
Making it even sweeter is that Richard’s first game as a pro will come in his home state of Louisiana when the Raiders visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Richard said he has been overwhelmed already by ticket requests and will plan to get as many as he can for his closest family members.
This will mark the first time Richard has been in the Superdome or at a regular-season NFL game.
While Richard had a good inkling he would make the team after performing well in the final two preseason games and drawing frequent praise from coaches for his practice play, the news came as a bit of a shock to Hamilton.
He was hoping just to make the practice squad when director of player development Lamonte Winston delivered the good news after the deadline passed Saturday.
“I was overwhelmed,” he said. “I just broke down in tears. Me coming from the place I came from, South Carolina State, small school. ... A lot of us, we don’t come in and actually make the 53 right away. I’m very humble, very grateful to have made it.”
Holton also overcame long odds to make the roster. He got his chance to play in junior college after being spotted by a coach playing flag football in a park.
After two seasons at College of DuPage in Illinois, Holton played his final two years of college at Cincinnati. When he had a couple of options on where to sign as an undrafted free agent, Holton picked the Raiders because he grew up as friends with star Oakland receiver Amari Cooper.
“It’s not where you start, it’s how you finish,” Holton said.
“I’m thankful for all of that and ready to move forward.”
Latham, a defensive tackle out of Indiana, made an immediate impression on the Raiders and is expected to be part of the rotation on a defensive line that is missing injured starter Mario Edwards Jr. for at least the first half of the season.
QB Derek Carr, C Rodney Hudson, LB Khalil Mack and S Reggie Nelson were named team captains.
S Nate Allen is listed as the starter at safety ahead of first-round pick Karl Joseph on the team’s depth chart.