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Preparation and fate made Rashad Jennings a star

No one knows the meaning of "depth" in the phrase "depth chart" better than Rashad Jennings. After all, he's a deep man.

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The running back, who lives by the quote, "When an opportunity presents itself, it's too late to prepare for it," was not always the coveted player that he was in free agency this spring.

Rather, once upon a time, he was such a fixture on the bench in high school football that he and his buddies, after the team ran onto the field for games, would go directly to the sidelines, remove their helmets, grab some Gatorade, and just "watch the show."

However, all of that changed one night during his junior year.

"I was the fifth-string running back," Jennings, who graduated from Lynchburg (Va.) Christian Academy after transferring from Jefferson Forest, said Thursday. "There was a Tennessee scout that came to watch our starting tailback. The starting tailback got injured. The second string got injured. The third string got injured. They put in a wide receiver at running back instead of putting me in there. He ended up getting hurt. The first string came back for a little bit, he got hurt again, and they finally put me in."

Bear with him. The payoff is coming.

"I had 14 plays, scored four touchdowns, two on offense and two on defense," continued Jennings, who doubled as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end at the time. "The scout asked after the game, 'Rashad, I came to see the starting running back, but I couldn't help but to notice you.'"

A decade later, the New York Giants were saying the same thing. They signed the former Oakland Raider on the second day of free agency this year to become the bell cow of their new offensive system.

Jennings, who faced the Giants last season and racked up 107 yards from scrimmage in that game, was prepared for the opportunity. 

"It goes back to all of that dedication and hard work that all of us, all of the players, put in during practice when nobody's watching, the way we eat, the way we sleep, all of that's preparation," he said. "When that opportunity comes, it's too late to decide to go work hard. That's how we approach the game, every single player, every single position as a New York Giant. It is the next man up mentality."

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