"I don't know what it is about him, but I hear that a lot. I hear at work from other parents who have teen-agers who rebel or are sarcastic," Tanya Russell said. "I made sure as he grew up that I taught him about consequences. If you do this, this what could happen. I told him that all the time. I told him not to put himself in bad situations where friends could get him in trouble.
"He hated it when I would go to open house at his school. A couple of classes his senior year, I was the only parent to show up. But I wanted his teachers to know I cared and anything I could find out to push him along, I wanted to know."
His mother laughs as she recalls how even the cafeteria workers liked his son and called him "Smiley" because of his pleasant disposition.
"The only time he was in trouble was when he thought he was the class clown in the seventh grade. He was punished by the principal and had to work in the cafeteria. But he loved it," Tanya Russell said. "Every year since then, he worked in the cafeteria on his own taking out trash, pizza boxes or something. The people there loved it, too. Just a month or so ago he told me he had made friends with the cafeteria workers at school at Kentucky.
"All I wanted to do was raise a good person. That doesn't mean you can't make a mistake, but if he did he knew he would be held accountable. I told him if he wanted a good life, he could have it. I didn't care if he wanted to be a carpenter or football player. I just wanted to make sure he was a good person. That's why I love hearing good things about him and I am so proud of his character. I know he's a good football player, but he's a good person, too."