Update: ND's Academics/Athletics Sold Russell

Notre Dame had to offer something special to pull Mariner High (Everett, Wash.) four-star running back KeiVarae Russell out of the northwest and away from Washington, and it had it in the form of academics and athletics. Russell chose Notre Dame over the Huskies on Thursday, and he talked about why.

Mariner High (Everett, Wash.) four-star running back Keivarae Russell knew there was pressure to stay at home, but the mixture of academics and athletics were too much for him to pass up.

So, during the quiet time between Christmas and New Year's Day, the 6-foot, 180-pound Russell chose Notre Dame over hometown Washington during a Thursday afternoon ceremony at his school.

He planned on celebrating by watching the Irish play Florida State a few hours later in the Champs Sports Bowl.

"With Notre Dame, everybody knows about Notre Dame," Russell said. "Notre Dame, as far as athletically and academically, you can't beat it. Once you get a degree from Notre Dame, you're basically set for life."

Russell is rated as a 24th running back in the 2012 class, rushing for 1,293 yards despite missing three games as a senior because of injury, but he is dynamic and can be used in a variety of ways.

In fact, in discussing the Irish during his recruitment, Russell talked about potentially playing slot receiver as a freshman before moving to the backfield as a sophomore, once he gained more muscle mass and put on weight.

"Whatever they need me to play, I will play," he said. "I'm going to be that catalyst on the team. I'm going to be that guy that makes a big play when they need him to make a big play.

"Whether it's kick return, punt return, slot, wide receiver, running back, wherever they want me to make a play and get the ball in my hands to help the team and put us in good position to win the game, I'm going to be that guy."

Russell said he was recruited as an athlete.

"I'm not even trippin' about what position I play. I know I can make plays," Russell said. "I need to get a little bigger. I'm 181 now. I'm feeling a lot more muscle, and more confident, so whatever position they want me at, I'm going to play it as long as I get on the field to make plays."

Russell also expanded on his thoughts about the importance of Notre Dame's academics.

"Oh, academics played a great part," he said. "You can't do anything in the world without academics. I'm going to major in business or sociology and a degree from Notre Dame in business or sociology is big. Wherever I go, I have a Notre Dame (degree) in my back pocket and can go anywhere I want."

Although Russell announced last week he was down to Notre Dame and Washington, he also had USC and California in his final four for his announcement.

"These are the four schools that stood out to me of all the schools that offered me," Russell said.

During his ceremony, he gave his thoughts on the three runners-up schools.

"With Cal, they send running backs to the (NFL) every year," Russell said. "If I were to go to Cal, my biggest goal is the make to the NFL, and if I went there I know I'd have a great chance of getting there.

"USC, I wear No. 5, and Reggie Bush, that's my guy right there and with all the Heisman winners and all the national championships and the tradition there, that's something you can't ignore.

"With (Washington), it's my hometown school and they're on the rise and coach (Steve) Sarkisian, he's doing a great job in recruiting. And with coach Sarkisian they bring a lot to the table."

However, in the end, Notre Dame won out because of its mixture of academics and athletics.

"They're getting an outstanding athlete, but they're also getting a person of character," Mariner coach John Ondriezek said. "They're getting somebody who will be a Notre Dame student. …He's a person of values, integrity, intangibles, ambitions. He has a bright future ahead of him. He'll do well at Notre Dame."

Scott Eklund contributed to this report

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