The first glimpse of him was through the barbershop window, a 300-pound mountain wearing a ball cap, a sweatshirt, sweatpants that stopped midcalf and sneakers. His eyes were hidden behind fashion sunglasses.
If JaMarcus Russell intends to silence a nation of critics, he has many miles to run.
He also will have folks in his old neighborhood providing unconditional support. The folks here in the Maysville neighborhood of Mobile represent Russell's personal cheering section. They have his back.
In the days after Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, I made the 280-mile round trip to see JaMarcus, to listen to the locals, examine their sorrow or optimism and see if they still believe in the young man.
What I discovered was just how much Russell means to Maysville, a low-income patch where pride and poverty coexist amid mostly older vehicles and modest bungalow-type homes, some neat and others dilapidated or boarded up.
Most of them still believe in JaMarcus. It is strikingly evident while roaming his 'hood for a couple of hours -- most of that time at the quaint barbershop on the corner of Dublin and Ghent -- that the former Raiders quarterback remains lodged in their hearts.
When he failed, they also failed.
If he rises, and Russell reportedly says he will, they rise with him.