Tyler Russell Talks Fan Day, Family, Movies

Mississippi State senior quarterback Tyler Russell talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about Fan Day, his family, being a vocal leader and movies.

Saturday will be your last Fan Day at Mississippi State. What does this last Fan Day mean to you?
"It is a great opportunity for all the Bulldog fans to come out and meet their Bulldogs. For me, it will be the last time to see the fans and give autographs. And also for me, it will be seeing a bunch of kids come through and putting a smile on their face. I'll see a bunch of family members of a lot of the players. It's a fun time for us."

These kids see you guys as their heroes, their idols. Were football players your heroes as well when you were a kid?
"Definitely. I looked up to those guys, especially the high school guys when I was little. When I got into junior high it was the high school and college players that I looked up to. You definitely look up to the football players when you are a kid. That's why I tell my guys that it's the little things you have to do the right way all the time because you never know when a little kid may be watching you."

How do you interact with the kids on Fan Day?
"When I was little and somebody took time to say something to me, that made my day. So I try my best to talk to all of the kids, ask them their names, just interact with them, show that I care."

Not only is this your senior year but your parents are also going through this senior year with you. How excited are they about this year?
"It's definitely exciting for them, as well as me. Since I was a redshirt and traveling with the team, even though they knew I wasn't going to play, they still went to every game. I can remember looking up in the stands and seeing them.

"My whole family has supported me through this entire process. Now, it is finally coming to a close. But it is a good close because they have supported me so much. I feel I have to go out there and finish strong and do the things that I know I can do.

"It's kind of like when I was a junior in high school and I knew where I wanted to go school-wise. It's kind of like everything in high school has correlated with everything that I have been through in college. That is what is so unique about it. I started off a little slow my senior year in high school. But I'm trying to make some changes that will allow me to start off fast my senior year in college."

Speaking of correlation, you won a state championship your senior year in high school.
"Yeah, I did. That's where I'm hoping the correlation continues."

You mention some similarities between being a senior in high school and being a senior in college. What are some other similarities and what are some of the differences?
"Some of the similarities are when I was a junior in high school we got beat in post-season. And we got beat in post-season last season. I was very hungry in summer camp in high school and I'm hungry now. I've got a great group of guys, especially wide receivers, offensive linemen, running backs. It is the best that I have seen when it comes to interacting with each other. It was the exact same thing with Meridian in high school.

"Sometimes I get caught up thinking that this is the Meridian High Wildcats. It's the exact same feeling that I get. Once you get to that first game it's going to go by quick. So you have to take every opportunity that you can."

What are the differences between your high school and college senior seasons?
"The differences are you are on a bigger stage. A lot more people are expecting you to do things. And if you don't do things the right way a lot more people are going to talk about you. But for me it's the same thing. As long as I can go out there and do the things that I was coached to do and our team go out there and do what I know they can do, then we will be fine.

"You get in trouble when you try to do too much. And I feel like I tried to do too much at the end of the season last year. That's why I finished the way I finished."

I've known you a long time. I remember putting up your sophomore video, which was the 2006 season. You have gone from being a 16-year-old kid to becoming a 22-year-old man. You are a grown man now. Are you comfortable with being that grown man?
"I am. I have come into my own as a leader. I used to just be the guy who led by example. But now I'm vocal and I show ownership of this team. When somebody does something wrong it's like I did something wrong. I'm not sure of the exact word but I guess you can say it's been more the general of the whole team. In high school I let Khairi Usher or Chris Smith do the talking. I didn't have to do any of the talking. I just went out there and played football my senior year. Here, I have younger guys around me. I have to be the general of the football team. I've gone from being an 18-year-old kid as a senior in high school to being a 22-year-old, 23 in December, man. I know what is expected of me now."

Are you 100% comfortable with being that vocal leader? Part of being a leader is being able to be vocal with someone when they have made a mistake.
"Oh yeah, I can even get on a coach when something is not going right. (Quarterback/offensive coordinator) Coach (Les) Koenning tells me all the time that, 'if you are wrong, be wrong 100% and know why you were wrong, but if you think you are right and you are wrong, then come and tell me what you saw and why you did it the way you did it.' We'll go back and forth about it, then we'll correct it when we watch film. When we watch film I'll tell him I did this because I saw this right here. He might say, 'oh, ok, I got you.' I saw something different than they thought they saw. It could be anything when they are watching film. It might be a guy blitzing and I run a zone into it. They might ask why I ran a zone when I was supposed to throw the bubble. I will say, 'Coach it was a third and 2 and I thought the best thing to do was hand it off in the zone and he gets the first down.' It could be anything like that. I might be right and he might be wrong. I couldn't do that when I was a freshman. I just kind of thought to myself that I messed up."

When did you get to that comfort level with your overall game?
"I think I got to the point where I knew everything I needed to do and be the general on the field, be the coach on the field, the spring of this year. Last year, we had plays that we checked and I was comfortable with them and I knew what I wanted to check them with, but I didn't know why we wanted to check it. Now I know why we want to check it. I now know why Coach wants to call a play this way. Even if he calls a play and doesn't check it, I know why he is calling a play in that situation. I'm thinking how Coach Mullen is thinking even though he's not the one out there playing."

I know you go see movies quite a bit. Has there been a movie or movies that you have seen that helped you on the football field, maybe some scene in a movie that helped you?
"I go to movies a lot. But off the top of my head I can't think of anything that I've seen. There have been a lot of great movies that I have seen but none of them have really related to the football field.

"Something that (the coaches) will do is show us video of the Navy Seals and the things that they go through. What we do is nothing compared to what they do. It's more of, 'if they can do that, then we can do what we do.'

"We saw video of this guy who ran something like 26 (or more) miles per day and something like 300 miles per week. He said he would get up, run 20-something miles, then do to lunch, and after lunch ride his bike 10 or something miles. If he can do that all day even he is tired, then what we do is easy compared to what those guys do."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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