It's not that he was unhappy at Eastern Kentucky, but former Anderson County quarterback Jake Russell says transferring to Kentucky as a walk-on player was still a relatively easy decision.
"It has always been my dream to play at the highest level in the SEC (Southeastern Conference)," said Russell. "After a year at Eastern where I had some success and good times, I just didn't feel that's what I was looking for. I had thought about just walking on at Kentucky out of high school, and now that's what I am going to do."
Russell played in six games as a true freshman in 2010. He was 12-for-26 passing for 125 yards with one interception and three sacks. He ran seven times for 84 yards, including a 33-yard gain, and two scores.
He was the 2009 Class AAAAA Player of the Year and second team all-state selection. He was a four-year starter and threw for 6,710 yards and 65 touchdowns while completing 56.5 percent of his passes. His senior season along he threw for 2,244 yards and 20 scores and ran for 14 more touchdowns. He's also Anderson's all-time leading scorer in basketball and was an all-state baseball player as well.
Russell, 18, will redshirt during the 2011 season and then have three years of eligibility remaining. He's already enrolled in school and will be able to participate in spring practice.
He first contacted UK head coach Joker Phillips about a transfer, came to watch the Wildcats practice in December and then talked to offensive coordinator Randy Sanders.
"Coach Sanders has obviously coached a lot of great quarterbacks and working with him is a big opportunity for me," Russell said. "UK's offense more suits my style of play, too. I am not a true dual threat quarterback. I can sit in the pocket and throw, but I can make plays running when needed to even though I don't look to run right off the bat. I like throwing the ball."
Anderson coach Mark Peach knows Russell had "tremendous respect" for Eastern coach Dean Hood. However, he also always sensed Russell wanted to follow his dream and play at Kentucky.
"I think he had a dream of playing Division I and playing for Kentucky," Peach said. "So if that is your dream, go for it. I just think his heart was always with Kentucky. I talked to him two or three times about it before he transferred. He understands there will be competition, but he has always enjoyed competing."
Russell also played outside linebacker, defensive ends, cornerback and safety at Anderson. "He also had the best hands on the team and could have played receiver or tight end," Peach said. "When he ran, he was one of our best runners. He has a knack for doing a lot of things well."
Russell initially will be a quarterback at Kentucky, which suited him because that's where he has always played on offense.
"Because I've always been big, I don't think I always get credit for some of my athleticism. A lot of people don't realize until they see me play in person that I might be quicker and faster than they realized. I am still working on that, too. I truly believe I have the athletic ability to succeed at Kentucky," Russell said.
"I know it won't be easy, but the challenge is one reason I made this decision. I wanted to give myself the biggest challenge I could and if I meet this challenge, then I will have reached my goal."
Peach doesn't think Russell would have any trouble moving to a different position if needed.
"He's smart not just as a student, but as an athlete," the Anderson coach said. "He'll make an easy transition to another spot if the move him. He's really a good kid and is very coachable. He is about winning whether it is football, basketball or baseball. He doesn't care about the glory as long as his team wins."
Peach says Russell's work ethic is legendary in Anderson. He still remembers the time during Russell's senior football season when he got to school about 7 a.m. and Russell was on the field pulling the weight sled a few days before a key game and hours before Anderson's daily practice.
"Not many kids have that type of dedication. That's why he will find a way to contribute," Peach said.
Russell admits his decision to transfer to UK was well received around Lawrenceburg.
"A lot of people around town have already shown their support for me. That helps out," he said. "A lot of them naturally are UK fans, so there has been a pretty good buzz around town about me going to Kentucky."
Transfer quarterback looks to fulfill dream
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