Getting dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart when Kentucky went to Florida to play was a bitter blow to sophomore tailback Donald Russell, a Florida native.
However, two weeks after his demotion, he got his chance again to show what he could do and responded with nine carries for 32 yards and two catches for 19 yards in last week's 37-34 loss to Auburn. With starter Derrick Locke's status for this Saturday's game against No. 10 South Carolina in limbo because of a shoulder injury, Russell could get a chance to shine once again.
"When your number is called, you have to be ready. I still feel the adrenaline even now," said Russell. "That's the big thing you think about when you Locke is hurt like he was against Auburn because he is so tough. You just try and play to the best of your ability and match his ability and look at the things he has done and see what he is doing to help the team.
"It's hard to stay ready, but you have to mentally focused and physically prepared because anything can happen. That is just something I have to do. I was nervous and had a few butterflies against Auburn, but once I made a good catch and run, I was good."
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips insisted Russell was never really dropped behind freshman Raymond Sanders but it was more of a case that Sanders' style suited what UK wanted to do at Florida more.
"But I'm proud of Donald, how he handled things. We put Sanders in first Saturday night (against Auburn) and he missed a run. So we wanted to go with Donald, and Donald went in there and was seeing well, made some people miss in the secondary, did some good things in picking up the blitzes. I'm proud of the way Donald handled the situation," Phillips said.
Phillips says Russell and Sanders are similar, but different.
"Sanders is probably a little smoother. Donald is probably a little herky jerky when he gets into the line of scrimmage. He has made people miss by herking and jerking," Phillips said.
Russell's mother was as frustrated as him when he was dropped behind Sanders going into the Florida game. She shared her thoughts about the situation, but also advised her son to fight through the adversity and accept that as part of big-time college football.
"My mom helped me a lot. A lot of people don't know that my mom is one of my best inspirations," Russell said. "She was the first person I called and she talked me through it and told me what I needed to do and how to stay prepared. That's what happened. Every carry I was thinking about her and my grandmother. Just trying to play to the best of my ability for them and my team.
"I hope I showed everybody I can play. I had a lot of problems, but I maintained my focus and stay prepared and I think it showed."
Russell said he was somewhat surprised his mother was willing to share her opinions about his spot on the depth chart.
"It did surprise me, but as bad as I was hurt, she was hurt maybe even worse. For her to even not get too over excited or too mad and to stay calm, that is how my attitude had to be. I am just like her," the UK sophomore said.
"It is a mental thing. I stayed mentally prepared. I talked to my coaches and family who told me to be ready. That's what I did. My number was called and I had to step up. I think I did pretty good. I picked up some blitzes and had some good runs. I think I did okay. Now I have to be ready to do the same thing against South Carolina if I am needed.
"When I wasn't getting that many opportunities, I was a little frustrated. I talked to my family and they always kept me up. My mom and dad stay in my corner and helped me. I think it was a bit of extra motivation. I felt I had to prove something and every carry that I got I tried to make something happen and I did okay."
Donald Russell got inspiration from mother
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