If Hollywood turned his past two years into a movie, very few people would believe it were actually true. And yet, Russell, who enrolled in Clemson in January, is poised to make his presence known around the ACC in 2006, even though his position has yet to be determined.
"He's a great kid," said Tigers defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who recruited Russell. "He's been through a lot. It's great to see his determination and how he's fought through everything to get where he is today."
Russell, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 210 pounds, had committed to play for Tennessee while a student at Hillsboro Comprehensive High School in Tennessee. But after the Tigers whipped the Volunteers in the Peach Bowl, he backed out of his commitment and accepted a scholarship to play football as a defensive back at Colorado.
He red-shirted in 2003 and was ready to get some playing time in 2004, but the coaching staff never could settle on just one position for him. He started off at cornerback, moved to safety and was ultimately switched to wide receiver.
It just wasn't a good year. However, as bad as things were then, they got substantially worse.
Following the season, his mother died, which is a devastating blow to any 20-year-old. Then his position coach on defense that recruited him was fired and he suddenly found himself not liking the entire situation.
With the weight of the world seemingly on his shoulders, Russell decided to leave Colorado. He enrolled at Coffeyville Community College, which has one of the best junior college football programs in the country.
He figured he'd play there for a year and then transfer to a school closer to home. But, once again, fate threw Russell a curve.
The 2005 season started out just fine. In preseason practice, he was quickly becoming a star defensive player for one of the top-ranked juco teams in the nation. Then, everything changed.
The junior college is only allowed to offer six scholarships per year to out-of-state students. And due to a mistake, Russell's scholarship got revoked because there were too many out-of-state players on the team.
He had to sit out the entire season as a result.
But that didn't stop Division I schools from wanting to sign him. After building a solid relationship with Koenning, Russell decided to come and play for Clemson.
"I think he just wanted to find something closer to home," Koenning said. "With him not having really played since high school, it's a little bit of a concern. Chris has had some adversity. He's going to be a little rusty to start with, but he's doing well in the weight room."
Russell, who is built as solid as receiver Rendrick Taylor and who is already bigger than linebacker Tramaine Billie, will either play linebacker or somewhere in the secondary, Koenning said.
"I think he can do a lot of things," Koenning said. "Time will tell where we'll put him. We've got a few holes to fill. He's a guy that we could put anywhere."
Coach Vic: Russell Adjusting Well
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