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January 24, 2005

Ball's game built around speed

video Russell Ball scouting video

Speed is definitely in the genes of Florida State commitment Russell Ball.

A talented running back at LaMarque (Texas) High, Ball may not be the fastest player in the country. But he has a direct connection to the fastest high school sprinter in United States history.

Ball's father is Derrick Florence, ran the 100 meters in 10.13 seconds at a meet in Texas in 1986. According to Track and Field News, that is the fastest 100-meter time ever recorded by a high school sprinter.

"Russell is a great runner with tremendous speed," said Bryan Erwin, the football coach and assistant track coach at LaMarque High. "He's got sprinter's speed. I think that's what a lot of people are attracted to - his speed. But he can do more than just run fast."

Ball became one of FSU's first public commitments way back in May when he announced he would sign with the Seminoles before ever taking an official visit. Erwin said he was not completely surprised by the early announcement.

"He's always been a big Florida State fan and I know a lot of coaches compare him to Warrick Dunn," Erwin said. "Russell is a big fan of Warrick Dunn, so I'm sure that comparison means a lot to him.

"These kids have to live with their decision. I can't make the decision for them. But I think Russell is smart enough and bright enough to know where he wants to go. And he wants to go to Florida State."

Erwin, of course, hates to see Ball leave his campus.

As a junior, Ball (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine games. LaMarque won the Class 4A state championship with a perfect 16-0 record. Ball scored the winning touchdown and won MVP honors in the state championship game. Though he is an accomplished runner, Ball also has the tools to change a game in the pass-catching department as well.

"Great, great hands," Erwin said. "Tremendous vision."

Ball's high school career ended before halftime of the first game this past fall when a knee injury forced him to miss the entire season. Erwin said the fallout from that injury made Ball even more firm in his decision to attend FSU.

"Right away, FSU stood behind him and said they would honor his commitment," Erwin said. "I think that in itself played a big part in him sticking with FSU.
"I know that's not always the case when a guy gets hurt. I certainly appreciate Coach Bowden and Florida State sticking behind this young man. He's well on his way to recovery and he's still got great speed."

In fact, Ball made a pretty strong statement in his recovery earlier this month when he was timed at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash by his Lamarque coaches. Erwin said he isn't quite at 80 percent right now in his rehab, but that he appears on pace to be able to compete in the spring track season.

Ball will be one of 12 recruits scheduled to make an official visit to FSU this weekend.

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