May 16, 2012

The Chance to be Great Again

Quincy Russell admits he blew it.

Seduced by the grandeur that came with being a top high school football recruit and an opportunity to play at Texas, the San Antonio native thought he had it made.

"I was bigheaded in high school,'' Russell said. "I felt like I was on a roll and that I could go where I wanted to go. But something like this brings you down to size.''

That something was his lack of discipline in the classroom. If he had been as diligent at Sam Houston high school as he was chasing down running backs, he would be in Austin and not in Athens at Trinity Valley Community College.

Ranked No. 11 at his position and No. 125 in the Rivals 250 in 2011, Russell didn't get through the NCAA Clearinghouse and is now working his way toward a December graduation and a second chance to play Division I college football.

Baylor, which was one of the programs that lost out to Texas then, is back in the race. And coach Chris Achuff, who recruited Russell out of high school, has renewed the relationship. Russell's recruitment is wide open now that Texas recently informed Russell it was no longer going to recruit him.

"Being in this business, when a kid ends up here, it's a wakeup call,'' Trinity Valley coach Brad Smiley said. "You're playing in the U.S. Army All-American bowl and everybody is telling you how great you are. And then you forget what's truly important - school. You didn't get stuff done in the classroom.''

Humbled or embarrassed or both, Russell (6-4, 305) arrived in East Texas last summer and unsure how to handle it. It was definitely a "what am I doing here?" type of moment.

The early transition wasn't easy. Russell said he had to mask the depression he felt. He believed he let his family and the east side of San Antonio down for those mistakes.
When he met with Smiley and the academic support staff, they gave him the plan of how to turn this into a positive. But it was up to him to stick to a plan that would help him reach his goal.

"It was a big life experience,'' Russell said. "You can't take the easy way and it caught up with me. Now, I'm dealing with the consequences of not doing what I should have been doing.''

Strategically, the staff had him room with former defensive standout Parker Holloway so Russell could follow the example. Smiley said Holloway came to Trinity Valley with similar shock one year prior and wasn't sure if this was an opportunity or a dead end.

Holloway made it through his personal storm and became a leader for the program, Smiley said. Holloway signed with UNLV.

It must have worked on Russell. He said he went to the mandatory tutor sessions and study halls in both the fall and spring semesters. Earlier this month, he returned to San Antonio and took a mini-mester class online and is returning to Athens on May 28 and will go through both summer sessions. By the time the fall starts, Smiley believes Russell will only need about three classes to finish.

"He's following the plan,'' Smiley said. "There's no question he's going to get it done.''

Between then, his workout routine is a daily ritual and covers every aspect from the shoulders to the legs. Little has changed about his game except that he's older and stronger. When he's right he fearsome.

Smiley recalls the spring football game. With college scouts watching him, the offense ran a toss sweep. The running back cleared the lane and was on his way for a 70-yard touchdown.

The play only covered half of that. Somehow, Russell got through the scrum and chased down his teammate from behind. Defensive tackles shouldn't be doing that to running backs.

"Everybody on the field is saying, 'You gotta be kidding me,''' Smiley said. "That's legit 4.9 speed there. He loves the weight room and can run. He has all the tools. All he has to do when gets to a school is work on his hands and technique.''

With Texas apparently out of the picture, Baylor and Oklahoma State appear to be the leaders. Russell said he definitely plans on taking official visits to those schools in the fall. Other schools very interested are Arkansas, North Carolina, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

"Talking to coach Achuff was great,'' Russell said. "The attention surprised because I thought my mistakes would have scared away a lot of big schools and they wouldn't take the chance on me.
"But I know now that it's going to take hard work in the classroom will make more available to me. If it's Baylor, I know it's a great opportunity. They're a private school with great academics. It would be a great accomplishment to finish with a college degree. That's the most important thing for me.''

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