EDUCATION

UM student athlete carries a football and a tune

Lynecia Christion

The Oxford Eagle

Ole Miss linebacker, Christian Russell, is more than your average athlete. After being faced with countless obstacles and adversities in his past, Russell was gifted with yet another talent – the gift of music.

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Growing up in a single parent home was not easy for the North Carolina native, but he found his outlet through the game of football and the “sweet sound of music.”

“I been doing music since I was born, so it has always been a part of me,” said the general studies senior, who not only plays football, but can also play multiple instruments, including the keyboard, organ, and the drums.

“I grew up in the church, so that is really where I got to display my love for music at a young age, by singing and performing. It was just something natural.”

His love of football came from his mom.

“I knew I’d probably be good at it,” he said, “but she was the one who kind of pushed me into it and told to me to go out there play, so I did.”

Russell, originally from Fayetteville, started playing football for Westover High School, where he was a three-year starter racking up 350 tackles on defense and 2,000 rushing yards on offense during his time there.

He transferred schools his senior year and played football for Hoke County High School. In 2010, during his senior year, he was deemed a three-star recruit, listed as a top 40 linebacker in the nation, and was verbally committed to a football scholarship at the University of North Carolina.

Due to some failed NCAA academic requirements, Russell was not able to sign his letter of intent to the university the following spring season.

Instead, he was set to attend Hargrave Military Academy, a prep school in Chatnam, Virginia, but before he could make it to the institution’s campus, tragedy struck.

“My mother died in a car accident,” he said. “I really did not know how to feel. I didn’t really talk to anybody.”

Instead, succumbing to his adversities, Russell continued to press through his trials.

“After she died, I made up in my mind that I couldn’t stop,” he said. “I had to keep going. I just had to. I knew I would get through it.”

After attending the preparatory school, Russell attended East Mississippi Community College, a junior college in Scooba, Mississippi. He played football under coach Buddy Stephens and helped the team win a 20-2 record during his two seasons there.

He earned a variety of football honors and was rated a four-star prospect and No. 1 JUCO middle linebacker in the country by Scout.com and ESPN.com

During his last year at EMCC, he obtained numerous football scholarships, but in the end, chose Ole Miss over the other universities in the Southeastern Conference Division, including the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia.

When asked if he like football or music more, he said the feeling for both of them are mutual.

“I love football just like I love music,” he said. “They both are important to me.”

Although he has not had his most memorable performing experience yet, he has performed quite a bite around the around Oxford area, mainly just for fun.

He did take time to reflect on a mission trip he and a few football teammates took to Haiti earlier this year, where he got a unexpected chance to showcase his talents for the Haitian community.

“I didn’t even know I was going to sing,” he said. “It kind of just happened. I kind of just got put on the spot, but it was cool. I like performing, and I like being able to get up on stage with a piano and microphone.”

Although Russell plans to make football a big part of future, he also plans on becoming a music recording artist as well.

“Right now, being that the football season is over, I am really just training myself and getting ready for the football combines in the spring,” he said. “As for music though, I can see myself being successful in that industry too, and hopefully make something out of it.”

Teammate Christian Morris, 20, an Ole Miss offensive lineman and criminal justice junior from Memphis, describes Russell as an “explosive player.”

“(He) knows how to find the ball and make a play on the field,” he said. “He’s very talented. He sings and has an ear for music. I would say he’s a very unselfish individual whose going to be very successful one day.

DeVante Kincade, 21, is a criminal justice junior from Dallas, Texas. He is one of the quarterbacks for the Ole Miss football team and is a good friend of Russell’s.

“He’s probably one of the most humble people I know,” Kincade said. “He’s really laid back and to himself, but he is about his business, for sure. He’s talented for real. He is so smooth with the keys, and you know he can probably start his own music class or something.”

Memphis native Herbert Moore, 21, is a journalism junior and a defensive tackle for the Ole Miss football team. He has never heard his fellow teammate sing in person, but found alternate routes to check out Russell’s talent.

“Overall, he is like a good down to earth guy and fun to be around,” he said. “He always has a good attitude about everything and is always positive. To me, Chris is an awesome player – probably one of the best Linebackers around. “I did not know Chris could sing until I saw it on Instagram one day. He was really good. I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

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