Russell Excels At Linebacker

GREENSBORO, N.C. --- North Carolina verbal commitment Christian Russell was constantly around the football throughout the 63rd Annual East-West All-Star Game on Wednesday night.

"I haven't played football in so long it was just good to be out there," Russell said. "I was just trying to get a ‘W' for my team and play as hard as I could."

During his high school career – which began at Fayetteville (N.C.) Westover and ended at Raeford (N.C.) Hoke County – Russell was an "iron man," starting at both running back and linebacker and rarely leaving the field. However, for the East All-Stars, which lost 19-7, Russell exclusively played right inside linebacker.

"It felt kind of different," Russell said. "I kind of missed running the ball a little bit, though. But I got a better chance of showing my abilities. I wasn't too tired and I could just focus on one thing."

Being fresh on defense allowed Russell to collect a game high five solo tackles (six total), including two for a loss.

"It felt great making tackles, meeting new friends, and trying to adjust to a new defense and plays in a week," Russell said. "It was real fun – I had a good time out here."

Russell also forced and recovered a fumble at the West's six-yard line, which set up the East's lone touchdown.

"It was a dive and the quarterback and running back kind of got confused with the ball," Russell said. "So I just busted both of them and the ball popped out and I jumped onto it."

Although the game roster listed him at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, Russell says he's closer to 250 pounds. Approximately 15 months ago, Russell weighed in at 221 pounds at the Shrine Bowl Combine.

"[The weight gain] just happened," Russell said. "But I still can move [and] I'm still fast."

Russell plans to trim down to at least 245 pounds by the time he enrolls at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy on August 15.

Russell figures to spend just a semester at Hargrave, where he'll continue to exclusively play linebacker, while he focuses on becoming academically eligible. He committed to UNC in July of 2010 but did not sign this past February because it was already known that he wouldn't be able to qualify for the 2011 fall semester.

Although his recruitment restarts, Russell plans to stick to the verbal committment he made to UNC over a year ago.

"I'm going to be respectful and listen to what everybody has to say," Russell said. "But, my focus is Carolina, unless something happens. Carolina is where I want to be."

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