Russell is an intimidating sight on the field, but off the field he is a caring volunteer.
Brent Russell Has an Impact on the Field and in the Community
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could outsize Brent Russell in his family. At 6’2”, 300 lbs., the Eagles senior defensive tackle is only surpassed by one person – his twin brother Brad at 6’3”, 360 lbs. Without a doubt, the athletic siblings always shared a love of sports.
“We played every sport together, side by side, in high school,” said Russell, “including wrestling, track and football.” In fact, Russell lettered in all three sports, and says he owes his athletic success to his brother. “Brad has always been a major influence in my life, pushing me to be better,” he added.
For five seasons, Russell has pushed himself to excel for the Eagles since he was a redshirt freshman. Some of the honors that rolled in during his first season include being named the Most Valuable Player by his teammates and the 2009 Freshman of the Year for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). As a sophomore, Russell ranked 12th nationally with 14 career sacks. Since that time, the two-year All-American has been named to numerous All-America lists – including five last year – and helped lead the Eagles to their ninth Southern Conference (SoCon) Championship in 2011.
Clearly, last year’s SoCon Defensive Player of the Year set the tone for the Eagles’ defense with 16.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, upping the expectations for the 2012 season. Russell
was on everyone’s preseason radar, gaining spots on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list and the College Sporting News’ FCS Preseason All-America Team, as well as being named the SoCon Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and a Preseason All- American by the Sports Network. Russell was also recognized as one of 20 FCS players to the Senior Bowl’s first-ever watch list.
Such high expectations might cause a player to crack under the pressure, but Russell continues to excel. One crucial component to his success is game day preparation.
“I like to go over the plays in my mind and listen to music as part of my own preparation,” he said, “but then, our defensive unit gets together for our own pre-game rituals. We talk, respond and have prayer. It’s a time for me to get everybody focused and it’s a time for everyone to be in their own zone before the game – and then we unleash it,” said Russell.
While Russell has garnered a slew of awards for his tough performances on the field, he has also achieved recognition off the field for his community service. The impact of his leadership has been significant and he has had the opportunity to influence the lives of local at-risk youth, just as his brother Brad pushed him to excel when they were youngsters.
“I owe it all to Coach Monken,” Russell modestly said. “He introduced the football team to the Boys and Girls Club of Bulloch County, and really opened our eyes to community service,” said Russell, about the special one-on-one time spent with the elementary and middle school kids.
After that rewarding experience, Russell initiated a weekly mentoring program for youth at the Joseph’s Home for Boys, a residence for boys ages 11 to 18-years-old who are in the custody of the state.
“It has been a great experience, and it was easy to get the guys to go out there,” he said, about his teammates who have willingly served as mentors. “We have taken the boys to Eagles’ basketball and volleyball games, and we’re here just in case they need us,” he said. Although Russell said a lot of the fun and games includes Xbox and basketball, there is also plenty of time spent helping the boys with their homework. “Sometimes we just hang out, and it’s really important for the kids to have positive role models they can trust,” he said.
The Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association recognized Russell for his commitment to the Joseph’s Home for Boys by selecting him as a member of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. He joins 116 other college football players who have made a difference through leadership and service in their communities.
Even though Russell is just a few short weeks away from graduation, his impact on and off the field will be remembered by both fans and youth alike for a long time. He admits, “It all went by so fast, from the first camp to last year’s camp. While I will remember all of my team experiences and bonding, the brotherhood is something I will never forget.”
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