ALAMEDA, Calif. - Oakland Raiders running back Rashad Jennings was speaking to a group of local high school students earlier this week when the conversation turned to the importance of being prepared when opportunities in life arise.
The veteran backup is certainly qualified to speak on the topic, having received a crash course on it over the past 15 months.
Jennings will make his second start of the season Sunday against the New York Giants while Darren McFadden rests his sore hamstring. He also started six games for Jacksonville in 2012 while Maurice Jones-Drew was sidelined with a foot injury.
The message Jennings delivered? Don't wait or it's too late.
"When I was in high school I kept a quote: When opportunity presents itself, it's too late to prepare for it," Jennings said. "So every day be prepared to be that guy."
That's been the case for Jennings, who has been a jack-of-all-trades in his first season with the Raiders. Besides filling in for McFadden, he's blocked two punts and recovered an onside kick on special teams this season.
Despite his part-time status, Jennings is also the only Oakland player to catch more than six passes in a game this season. He had eight against Washington on Sept. 29 after McFadden left that game injured, then grabbed another seven in last week's 49-20 loss to Philadelphia.
When McFadden got hurt last week against Philadelphia, Jennings responded with his first 100-yard game in nearly three years.
"It just goes back to the mental preparation and trying to put yourself in the game," Jennings said. "You never know when you're going to get called, you really don't. I don't think that's coined as much as it's really said and it's kind of passed over. But you don't know, you never know. So make sure you're ready."
Jennings' game against the Eagles marked just the second time this season that an Oakland running back has topped the century mark. McFadden ran for 129 yards against Jacksonville in Week 2 but has been mostly ineffective and is averaging just 3.6 yards a carry.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who has a pair of 100-yard rushing games this season, has given the ground game a lift. He leads the team with 485 yards rushing and is the primary reason the Raiders have the fourth-ranked running offence.
Jennings would be content with anything as long as Oakland wins. The Raiders (3-5) play four of their next five games on the road and are just 7-25 in November since 2005.
McFadden didn't accompany the team on its trip to New York. Neither did right tackle Matt McCants, who has a foot injury.
McCants' injury means second-round pick Menelik Watson will make his first start in New York, one week after making his NFL debut. He'll also be the third different starting right tackle Oakland has used this season.
"Obviously, he's gotten limited exposure but we have confidence in him," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Friday. "Really, that's what your job is. When you're called upon to go in and do a job, you have to go in and do the job. That's the way of the National Football League."
Rookie nickelback D.J. Hayden will also be held out of the game. Oakland's first-round draft pick injured a groin muscle earlier this week and has been held out of practice each of the past two days.
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