Rashad Jennings spent the final three years of his career as a Giants RB including his only playoff appearance:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – You would not think five carries for 29 yards would excite an accomplished running back in his final NFL game, but to Rashad Jennings, the thrill was simply playing in the first and only postseason contest of his career.
Jennings posted those numbers in the Giants' loss to Green Bay in the NFC Wild Card Game last January.
"That was an amazing experience," Jennings said this week. "To finally be playing football at that point for eight years and never making a postseason, never playing that 17th game, and finally, finally making it to the playoffs and getting a chance to smell that atmosphere and also doing it in Lambeau, it was a great experience. As a player, that is something that I will always take with me and cherish. Sometimes as a fan, I don't think they can properly comprehend the rareness of playing in a playoff game. So I'm honored to be part of a team that made it there, and I can say for the rest of my life that I played in a playoff game."
That treasured memory will also be his last as an NFL player. Jennings today announced his retirement from the NFL as a member of the Giants, for whom he played his final three seasons.
"I had my most success here as a Giant, both on and off the field," Jennings said. "It's such a prestigious organization, and it was the last football team I played for that I felt just a part of home with. From front office top to bottom, and I couldn't see myself if I'm able to, retire with any other team but the Giants."
Jennings joined the Giants as a free agent on March 12, 2014. In three seasons with the team, he played in 40 regular-season games with 37 starts and had 543 carries for 2,095 yards, the 17th-highest total in franchise history. Jennings also caught 94 passes for 793 yards and two scores.
His finest season was 2015, when Jennings played in and started all 16 games for the only time in his career. Jennings led the Giants in all three major rushing categories with 195 carries for 863 yards (both career-high totals) and three touchdowns. Jennings' 863 yards were the highest total by a Giants back since Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 1,015 yards in 2012.
In the season finale vs. Philadelphia on Jan. 3, Jennings rushed for 170 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, finishing only six yards shy of the career-high 176 yards he rushed for against Houston on Sept. 21, 2014.
Jennings enjoyed every minute of his time with the Giants.
"I got a chance to play with one of the most prestigious organizations in the NFL," he said. "I got to play under the leadership of a soon to be Hall of Fame coach in coach (Tom) Coughlin. The Mara and Tisch families are amazing. I got to play for some of the greatest fans in the NFL, playing in the mecca of everything. The locker room, my teammates. My locker was right beside Eli Manning's. We still text today silly stuff. So the relationships in the locker room you can never take for granted."
Jennings entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009. He spent four years with the Jaguars – including spending the 2011 season on injured reserve – before playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2013, when he scored a career-high six touchdowns.
Off the field, Jennings has always been a man with an eclectic list of pursuits. He started and leads the Rashad Jennings Foundation, which focuses on health, fitness, education and youth. In 2015, he received the "Hometown Hero" award at the United Way of New York City's 23rd annual Gridiron Gala, which support's the city's low-income youth. Jennings was the 2016 commencement keynote speaker at his alma mater, Liberty University.
Joining the Giants helped Jennings expand his horizons to new and exciting places.
"I'm attracted to life and learning and I got a chance to live for three years in New York," Jennings said, "where basically I felt like I was inside of an adult Toys R Us, with all of the opportunities that the game of football could offer off the field."
When he was tracked down this week, Jennings was driving to a dance class in Fort Lee, N.J.
"I wish I would have known about how much dance could actually help you out as an athlete a long time ago, because I'm in the best shape, but I don't get a chance to show that," Jennings said. "It is bittersweet. I love the game more than anything I've ever done. As a rookie coming in, I knew at some point in my career as a professional athlete it would come to an end before my skillset left. A lot of times that happens to players, probably 99.9%. So every single offseason, I would always go train. My motto was to travel, train and network. I would train like I'm about to be the starter the next year, and I would mentally prepare as if that was my last season ever playing. I did that for eight seasons and now finally I'm right."
Jennings will no longer carry footballs, but he will not slow down.
"I'm all over the place," he said. "I'm here, Virginia, Florida, L.A. I've been training every single day waiting for a team to call. I've been asked by NBC and ABC and a lot of different movies to take acting seriously, to take dancing serious, to take some political things seriously. But I've put everything on pause, because I'm respecting the fact that I'm a free agent. So when I close this up, there's no telling where I'm going to be at or what I'm going to be doing.
"I want to continue to be myself and spread my wings. I've been probably busier than I ever have before. I thought being a free agent I was going to have some more down time, but I don't know what down time is. So I'm going to take acting further, I'm trying to work for Hallmark potentially, Shad the Poet has some stuff in the mix. I'm going to announce my book release here soon; I'm writing a book and I got several in a row I'm going to write. I got three books in mind. My first one will be done here before December is over. Dancing has become a new-found love that's going to be in my arsenal. I actually led a dance class last night, so I plan on opening up a ballroom class back in my hometown. I got some things in real estate, I got some things in the fashion world and my foundation. That's something that's big to me, philanthropically. So I think I got a different genre every day of the week that I focus on."