One last time this weekend, Bucs media met with the selected player, to get a brief introduction to the person, and find out what it is he might bring to the roster in 2020.
Having suffered ACL injuries to the same knee, twice, many people wouldn’t have blamed Russell for giving up his dream of playing in the NFL if he had done so. Instead, he chose to continue his playing career, and has now been rewarded for his determination. Asked to detail what it took to get him to the NFL, Russell said,
“Honestly it’s just all dedication to how bad you really want it. You know, (there) was a lot of doubters I had thinking I might not be able to come back and play at the level I was able to play at. You know, like I’ve been through a lot in my life just alone outside of football. You know, me fighting adversity my whole life just allowed me when I tore a ACL it was like, man this is just another bump in the road that I have come across.”
Playing for Temple, his first appearance with the Bucs won’t be his first trip in Tampa. Something he looks forward to, now that he’s been drafted by the Buccaneers.
“I loved always playing USF. I loved coming down there, I loved having to play in an NFL stadium, the grass was soft the crowd was nice. I just loved the atmosphere out there.”
Russell mentioned the on and off the field adversity he’s faced in his life thus far. He expanded on some of those struggles in a particularly candid moment, detailing facing eviction as a high school freshman and more, eventually suffering the loss of his father to cancer. Going by Cook at the time, Russell decided to change his last name to honor his late father.
Expanding on the connections he already has to Buccaneers football and the NFC South, Russell played his first two years at Temple with new Carolina Panthers head coach, Matt Rhule.
“As a coach, I love Matt Rhule. He recruited me, he gave me my first scholarship offer as a sophomore in high school. You know, he put his trust in me when nobody else did,” Russell said. “When it’s time to play him, at the end of the day it’s a business, it’s either you or me at that point. I want to get the ‘W’ honestly, it would feel good to see him - obviously is to see him first - but you know, to get the ‘W’ and to see him, especially at the level we’re at now.”
Buccaneers fans don’t often get excited for seventh-round draft picks, and frankly the odds of Russell making the roster are stacked against him. However, after speaking with him, the franchise just added a resilient player who isn’t going to let two torn ACLs, eviction, moving across a handful of cities and states in his life, the loss of his father, and even more, stop him. So why would he let being a seventh-round pick finally do him in?