His mother, Tanya, a human resource manager for a public transportation company, admits it has been different at home since her son left for Kentucky. "It has been so quiet. He is that joy when he walks through the door. He is always smiling. He might be smelly from football practice, but there's been a void here without him," Tanya Russell said.
However, she was not surprised when he worked his way into the playing plans for this year and did not redshirt as freshman running backs Dakotah Tyler and Jonathan George did.
"I knew he was capable of playing. That I knew. My main thing was if he realized the level he would be playing with in college. I didn't know if he would grasp that right away. He had a rough spell in camp, but I knew he was capable of playing this year. Once he saw he could do it and that competitiveness and determination kicked in, he knew he could do it, too," Russell's mother said.
Apparently Rick Petri, UK's defensive line coach, sensed Russell could do it, too, based on the way he recruited Russell.
"He just aggravated me every day until I agreed to come visit. I knew it would be cold up north, but I did want to play in the SEC and Kentucky gave me that chance. He would call to make sure I knew how interested he was in me. He would ask about my school work. It felt like home when I got here," Russell said.
Russell is big on family. He has a 14-year-old sister who started high school this year. He worries daily about her. "I call and check on her all the time just to make sure ... she is in high school and I tell her to watch out for the boys and follow the rules. I am trying to get her in track, but she's more into dancing and singing. I want her to run track like I did," Russell said.
He once ran the 100-meter dash in 10.7 seconds and had a long jump of 23 feet, 11 inches. He initially did track just to stay in shape for football before he realized he could be a success on the track, too.
"If I hadn't run track, I probably would have been at home sleeping or something. There were a lot of fast guys I ran against. I had to run against (Florida running back) Jeff Demps. I didn't beat him. He was the fastest guy I ever saw run," Russell said.