I didn’t start playing fantasy football because of Maurice Jones-Drew, but he became the reason why I stayed in the game, every season and in every way.
By Andrew Pridgen
He’s gone now. At 29, retired.
I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. Nothing, not even a Sting ballad, does.
And yet, MJD (or is it MJ-D?), whose initials became his name, who sounded so mysteriously and flavorfully like my favorite beer, announced Friday without ceremony, fanfare or one final curtain call on my Yahoo! message board, that he would touch the ball no more.
My adult life’s ups and downs have always orbited around MJD. From covering his prep days at De La Salle as a stringer for the Contra Costa Times, to watching this tiny ball of muscle—like a He-Man figurine but melted down in the microwave—eviscerate the Pac-10 tip-toeing through secondaries with his tiny size-7 spikes; and finally, to Jacksonville, the Bakersfield of the NFL, where he spent eight seasons defying expectation and stature.
Just barely peeking over the counter at Cold Stone at 5’7”, MJD’s earth weight is listed at 210 pounds, that’s 180 pounds of thigh meat and a 30-pound dome. He finished his career with 8,167 rushing yards—all of them gained 100-percent for my team during necessary fantasy moments.
As one who is blessed annually with the Sahara Desert of selections—the 7th through 11th pick in a non-keeper league—MJD was always there for me.
Everyone’s like “Well, there’s always MJD,” and snickers. But who’s laughing now? He endured and outlasted several eras of next-big-thing backs. Recognize any of these names from your ‘Draft Board’? LaDanian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Frank Gore, Shaun Alexander, Willie Parker, Rudi Johnson, Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones, Cadillac Williams, Joseph Addai, Travis Henry, Reggie Bush, Willis McGahee, Laurence Maroney, Chris Johnson, Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Ryan Grant, Jamaal Charles, Shonn Greene, Matt Forte, Jerome Harrison, Ryan Matthews and Darren McFadden…
…What do all these suckas have in common? They weren’t crunch-time players like MJD.
When the chips were down for me, that’s when MJD shined brightest. In 2008, Week 6 on a three-game skid, down by 23 going into Sunday afternoon games, who was there to rip off 125 yards and two Teeders against a staggering Broncos D?
In 2010, the first week of playoffs, who shocked the world by rolling up 186 yards against Tennessee and pushing my 12-point underdog to round 2?
In 2011, my team at 6-7, who decided to run for 85 yards, grab another 51 in the air and score 4 touchdowns to squeak my team into the 8th playoff seed?
Only Motherfucking Jesus Do (him and MJD)—that’s who.
George Brett once said of teammate Jamie Quirk, a catcher, “He looks like a greyhound, but he runs like a bus.”
That’s how I think of MJD, my tiny, sturdy Pocket Hercules. My little workhouse. He was my IT guy and my accounting team. He was my 2Live and my Motley Crüe. He was my North, my South, my East and West, my working week and my Sunday rest. He wasn’t the girl who gives you a HJ on the first date, but that’s not the one you end up with anyway. He was everything.
He was my MJD.
And though he never slowed the game down he shrunk it to his size, made it look like everyone was playing Pee Wee again:
He was steady, durable, elusive and reliable. But most of all, he was mine. The shitty NFL Shop wouldn’t even sell me a ‘Pocket Herc’ Jaguars replica (though I may still be blackballed for all those Ron Mexico jerseys I ordered up and sold on eBay back in 2005), but now I may go try to order one up once more—this time with the number 69—which stands for how MJD racked up the sixth-most rushing yards in the NFL over the past nine seasons.
Every one of those yards mattering to the person who matters most: Me.
“All good things come to an end!” my little MJD tweeted yesterday.
Indeed they do my one and only, and my
fantasy life will never be the same again.