Silver Spotlight: Justin Fargas
- RUNNING BACK
- No: 25
- Height: 6’1”
- Weight: 220
- Birth date: 01/25/1980
- College: USC
- Acquired: Selected in the 3rd round (96th overall) of the 2003 NFL Entry Draft
In the last five seasons for the Oakland Raiders, you can make the case that no person has seen more competition or players come and go on their unit than Justin Fargas.
Through all of this, the former 3rd round draft selection has waited patiently, prepared with professionalism and aimed to take advantage of his opportunities.
At 28, Fargas became the ‘go to’ rusher for the Raiders and the main cog for this offense. It wasn’t an easy road – dating back to his college days – where he faced obstacles trying to make a name for himself.
When you run for 6,357 yards on 668 carries with 82 scores in High School, all school records, you can expect a lot of attention from many colleges. As a senior at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks (Calif.), Fargas was highly touted and regarded as the nation’s top prep rusher. His resume even detailed amazing speed and athleticism, as he won the state 100 meters crown in 1997 while also trying his hand along the defensive backfield in Notre Dame.
All of this led to his arrival at the University of Michigan, where he spent three campaigns as a running back before giving it a go at safety during the 2000 season. Fargas’ uneventful first season as a Wolverine ended after 10-games due to a broken right leg.
Michigan red-shirted Fargas in 1999 as he rehabilitated his leg, which had 2 titanium rods and 12 screws implanted. After three surgeries to repair the leg and ensuing complications, the sophomore returned in 2000 as a back up and then was asked to go back to safety. His run at Michigan came to an end, and hoping to find greener pastures elsewhere, Fargas continued his unconventional college career at a place where he always wanted to play.
He landed at the University of Southern California in the spring of 2001. Where he wanted to go initially from high school, but when John Robinson was let go, Fargas changed his mind. But due to transfer rules, Fargas had to sit out his 2001 junior season. As a senior in 2002, playing in 12-games, he rushed for 715 yards on 161 carries (4.4 avg.) with 7 touchdowns, hauling in 8 passes for 101 yards (12.6 avg.) and returning 7 kickoffs for 132 yards (18.9 avg.).
AIMING AT THE DRAFT
At the Senior Bowl in 2003, Penn State running back Larry Johnson was named the overall most valuable player. But Fargas’ performances during the week and his 9-carries for 31-yards were drawing attention from scouts.
The Raiders took note of Fargas at the scouting combine when he posted a 4.32 second 40-yard dash time on what was described as a slow track. His quickness, athleticism, ability to run hard between the tackles and blocking were never in question. But his durability, whether or not he can stay healthy over the course of a 16-game season, upright style and narrow base were.
In a draft considered weak at running back, Fargas was selected in the 3rd round, 96th overall, after Willis McGahee, Larry Johnson, Musa Smith and Chris Bown.
AS A RAIDER…
Raider fans felt teased by Fargas at the onset of his career. During pre-season games, he showed flashes of burst and ran with obvious passion. Every time he took the field prior to the season beginning, fans wondered whether or not he could demonstrate some of those traits in a prolonged role when it mattered most.
Tyrone Wheatley, Charlie Garner, Zack Crokett Chris Hetherington, Amos Zereoue, Troy Hambrick, LaMont Jordan, Adimchinobe Echemandu and Dominic Rhodes have been some of the players brought in over the years to fill the depth chart at running back or that have received time in the backfield during Fargas’ tenure.
And through the influx, as Oakland’s revolving door of coaches continued to spin, Fargas stuck around; as a back up, relegated to the bench, contributing minimally on special team coverages or injured.
In his rookie season, he missed six games due to injury. In 2004 and 2005, Fargas was not part of Norv Turner’s equation.
But in 2006, after Jordan was lost for the season with an MCL tear, Fargas, who had one career start up to that point, had the rest of the year to make an impression.
Behind an offensive line in shambles and a rush attack ranked at the bottom of the NFL rankings, Fargas ran for 659 yards on 178 carries.
In 2007, Fargas survived a tough training camp under new head coach Lane Kiffin; who stated that everyone would earn a job on their own merit. Since camp, Fargas has been a favorite of Kiffin’s due to his work ethic, preparation and productivity when inserted into the line up.
“Justin Fargas prepared like he is a starter going into the season”, commented Kiffin, after their win in Miami. Fargas was in relief of an injured Jordan and ran for a career high 179-yards, earning him the FEDEX Ground NFL Player of the week honors after week-4.
Kiffin kept his word, and awarded those players deserving of playing time more reps. And Fargas was the beneficiary of it starting in Nashville against the Titans. After that game, Kiffin stated, “We were going to play Justin more. We like what Justin brings. And he hasn’t had many opportunities as of late. So we wanted to give him a shot.”
When Oakland visited Arrowhead stadium in week-12, Fargas did something Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen, Napoleon Kaufman nor any other Raider running back has done in 29-years.
Fargas wasn’t even born when a Raider rusher tallied over 100-yards on the ground in Kansas City.
Oakland beat the Chiefs 20-17; Fargas posted his third 100+ yard game of the season and had shattered his career high rushing total of last season. At that time, his 717-yards lead the Raiders, with an impressive 4.8-yard per carry average.
Fargas doesn’t shy away from contact, runs with determination with every carry and has earned his spot as a starter.
Unfortunately, Fargas was sidelined for Oakland’s last two contests.
He ended with a career high 222 carries, 1,009 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Fargas’ timing couldn’t have been any better in terms of his output, as he became an unrestricted free agent, and earned a 3-year deal worth $12 million and $6 million in guarantees.
After back-to-back seasons of productive football behind sub par offensive lines, in a league where young legs are at a premium and depth at running back is always needed, Fargas proved his worth to the Raider organization.
Kiffin has stated how important Fargas has been to his club.
With Jordan all but out the door, the severing of ties with Dominic Rhodes, Michael Bush’s inexperience, Fargas will look to be the leader in a ground game that added the explosive multi-dimensional talent Darren McFadden during the draft.
You mention Fargas’ name now, and people acknowledge that he is the starting running back for the Oakland Raiders. But for years, Justin’s football prowess was overshadowed by the popularity of his dad’s acting career.
Antonio Fargas was the star of many blaxploitation movies in the 1970s, but gaining recognition mostly by his role of ‘Huggy Bear’ in the television series Starsky and Hutch.
Both father and son have ties to acting, as Justin has starred in 2 featured length films, and engaged in other aspects of the entertainment world.