Russ, an exceptional student in the classroom, has received numerous athletic honors during his high school career, including All-MPSA in baseball as a sophomore and junior, All-Conference in baseball his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons and All-Conference in football and basketball as a sophomore and junior. He also earned numerous schools honors as well. He has also played on several state championship teams, football and baseball. As a football player, he was the starting quarterback his 10th and 11th grade seasons. As a junior, he hit .490 with 5 home runs. He was also the ace pitcher on his team.
What did the college coaches say they like about you?
"They said I was a definite division-I player and an outstanding athlete who is tall and rangy with good size. They said I am very versatile. I play solid defense."
How would you describe yourself as a pitcher?
"I would say I'm 85 to 88 and have probably hit 92 to 93. I also have a curveball, changeup and a slider. I can throw all four pitches over the top and sidearm, so I have a bunch of different looks. My over-the-top fastball or the sidearm slider are my out pitches."
How much has your velocity increased since your sophomore season?
"I would I was in the low 80's as a sophomore, probably 82 to 85. I am probably consistently in the upper 80's now. This summer at Ole Miss, I talked to some pro scouts who said I was up in the 90's pretty good."
What camps did you attend this past year?
"Being a three-sport athlete, I really don't have much time to go to camps. In the fall, I went to the Ole Miss hitting camp. This summer, I went to a day of the Mississippi State camp. I'm receiving calls for football, so I went to a Vanderbilt football camp."
What schools called you in football? And who has sent you letters?
"Mississippi State's Coach Drayton and Coach Turner from Vanderbilt. I also went to the Mississippi State and Ole Miss (football) Junior Days on the same day. I stayed for the Mississippi State baseball the next day. To tell you the truth, I may have received more letters in football than baseball. I've received letters from all the Ivy League schools, Army and Navy, Stanford and a few SEC schools."
Obviously, based on your commitment, baseball is going to be your sport in college. What schools showed interest in you for baseball, include the ones that called you?
"I had been to Georgia Tech's Junior Day. Baylor invited me to visit for their Junior Day. I also came to State's Junior Day. My fist call was Ole Miss bright and early - they were real big on me and wanted me to come in for an unofficial visit and receive an offer from Coach Bianco. I received an offer from Ole Miss on July 13th. Coach Strickland from Georgia Tech called me. Coach Rock called me from Memphis. Coach Raffo from Mississippi State called me. A bunch of smaller schools also called, schools like Arkansas State. My main four, prior to the Junior Days, were Georgia Tech, Baylor, Ole Miss and Mississippi State."
What schools did you unofficially visit?
"I went to Georgia Tech's Junior Day. I was invited to Baylor's Junior Day, but I didn't go. I took the unofficial visit for the offer from Ole Miss on July 13th. If I hadn't committed to Mississippi State, I would have probably taken a lot more visits but that was the place where I wanted to be."
What position is Mississippi State recruiting you to play?
"State is recruiting me as an infielder, mainly shortstop. Coach Polk said on signing day I would be listed as an infielder/pitcher. This summer, I've had a few closing appearances for a few professional scouts, but other than that, I didn't pitch that much on the Dulins team."
Talk about your visit to Mississippi State.
"Ole Miss had offered and I wanted to move things up and get Mississippi State to make me an offer a little bit earlier because I wanted to make my mind up before football started. I really wanted to make my decision before school started. (Mississippi State) was fine with that. Coach Raffo said they had everything set and ready to go. My summer schedule was really busy, so we set (the unofficial visit) up for after the NABF World Series. I came in on August 9th. I visited the campus, met with the academic advisor and had my visit with Coach Polk. We were probably in his office for about 2 and a half hours. At the end, he was really excited and said Mississippi State wanted me to become a Bulldog. I said, 'I'm ready to be a Bulldog,' so I committed then."
Based on your comments earlier, it very much sounds like you have grown up a Mississippi State fan.
"Yes sir. My parents (Jimmy and Dinah) and my sister (Emily) have graduated from Mississippi State. Emily recently got married to Briton Hatcher. He is also a Mississippi State graduate. It is definitely a dream come true for me to play on Dudy Noble Field for Coach Ron Polk, who I have idolized my entire life. The atmosphere and fans are unbelievable. It is one of the best programs in the country. Just to have the opportunity to play in the SEC, the best conference in the county in my eyes, is big for me. When I walked across the field at Dudy Noble, it just felt like home and where I needed to be. Now that I look back at it, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. As a kid, I was one of the ball chasers. I idolized most of the players and had most of their autographs."
Due to your potential and how well you project, there is always that chance that you will be drafted during next summer's Major League Baseball Draft. What are your feelings about that?
"I've always dreamed of playing at Mississippi State. I think the situation will be kind of like (MSU freshman baseball player) Edward's (Easley). Edward and I are real close friends. I think it goes back to wanting to go through the college experience at Dudy Noble Field. I don't think there is anything else like that in the country." [Edward Easley, who signed with MSU last year and is currently a freshman at MSU, was projected to be a supplemental first rounder or second round draft pick this past June but chose to take his name out of the draft and attend Mississippi State.-Gene]
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Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.