Mobile QB has the size and skills to thrill

Jamarcus Russell of Mobile Williamson High School is one of the nation's top trigger men, but he doesn't show any signs of having an itchy trigger finger, especially when it comes to selecting a receiver or college.

The 6-6, 220-pound senior signal caller has completed 61 percent of his passes during his first three years as a high school starter and is within 1960 yards of setting a new state passing mark. As a freshman he led the Lions to the state title game while hitting 59 percent (180 of 304) of his passes for 2651 yards and 21 touchdowns. As a sophomore Russell upped his marksmanship to a remarkable 67 percent (193 of 286) for 2,806 yards and 21 touchdowns while pacing Williamson to the state Class-5A semifinals. As a junior Russell broke in an inexperienced set of receivers, but still managed to connect on 55 percent of his passes for 1950 yards and eight TDs as the Lions went 8-4 and reached round two of the state playoffs.

As discriminating as Russell is in the pocket, he might be even more selective when it comes to choosing a college. He current list of interests includes Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Virginia, but he doesn't have a favorite at this point and he hasn't decided on a single visit. He added that he doesn't have a strong pull toward either in-state school although he did attend Auburn's football camp last week.

"I do have interest in Tennessee, but right now I have interest in a lot of teams," Russell said. "I like Tennessee's style of offense. I want to play in a balanced offense. I haven't been to their school yet so I don't know much about that. I haven't made up mind about any school I'll visit for sure."

Although he is still weighing the pros and cons of the schools he's considering, Russell knows what he's looking for.

"I want a place that fits me," he said. "I want a place that has a good business management program, someplace I would like to be the next four or five years."

Like most top-flight quarterbacks, Russell, who is currently ranked No. 6 nationally by The Insiders, is also looking for an opportunity to earn early playing time. However he said "a good fit" is the prime consideration in his decision-making process.

As long as Russell is wide open on his future, the offers will continue to roll in. After all, 6-6 quarterbacks with 4.79 speed, admirable maturity and a rifle right arm are in short supply. Russell is also a proven winner as his 9-3 record in the state playoffs suggests.

He is also a good athlete who averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists for Mobile Williamson's basketball team which earned a playoff bid last season. Russell has a 30-inch vertical leap and can perform five reps at 225 pounds in the bench press. He is considered a pocket passer, but he'll run when the opportunity presents itself. In that respect, he is a lot like his role model Dante Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings.

"Dante Culpepper is the quarterback I've modeled myself after," he said. "If I want to I can be a good runner. I had a couple of hundred yards last year. I'm a pocket passer, but I run when I have to."

When Williamson's offense is purring Russell likes to stand tall in the pocket and pick defenses apart with laser-guided strikes on sideline routes out or a feather touch on the flare route. He regards his versatility as a passer as his strong suit.

"Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it," he said of his passing skills. "I like to throw the post and the fade. I think this year we should do some good. We've got some experience at receiver and I want to win a state championship. I started as a freshman and took our team to the championship. We made it to the semifinals when I was a sophomore and to second round last year. This year I want to go all the way."

Russell displayed his play-making ability as a freshman under the pressure of the state semifinals, when he a linebacker blitzed on a run and stopped Williamson's tailback as he was taking the hand off. Seeing the play was doomed, Russell pulled the ball out of the runner's grasp, rolled out and completed a key first down pass.

He is a player driven to succeed on the field and off. He currently carries a 2.9 grade point average and is a fixture on the A-B honor roll at Williamson. He was one of three underclassmen selected last year to participate in the Elite 11 camp which is held in California and sponsored by Student Sports magazine. He will make a return trip to the Elite 11 camp this week.

Williamson is the same high school that produced Tennessee's Tee Martin who was also a four-year starter for the Lions and the state's top football prospect. Russell indicates the current controversy surrounding Martin and a Mobile sports writer won't have any impact on his consideration of the Vols.

Russell wears jersey No. 2 and he makes the Lord No. 1 in his life. Otherwise, his life off the field is pretty typical of a young man his age.

"I like to talk to girls and hang with my buddies," he said. "I go to church every week. The Lord plays a big part in my life. If it wasn't for Him it wouldn't be happening for me."

No doubt there are numerous college head coaches that are praying Russell says ‘yes' to their school.

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