Most people know that pro-athletes like Brian Russell don’t simply fall into their careers. Rather, they land them through years of hard work and dedication. And when you look at the statistics, it’s plain to see that the odds of making it to the NFL are simply astronomical:
- Out of 100,000 high school seniors who play football, just 215 get drafted into the NFL
- Out of 9,000 college players, about 310 get invited to the NFL Combine (where the draftees come from)
Brian Russell’s career is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he was undrafted. He made the Minnesota Vikings roster as an undrafted free agent. The odds of an athlete like that making a team are 1 in 80. But this athlete did make the team. In fact, he had a nine year career as a defensive back at the most elite level possible.
Russell played for the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. He rounded out his life with community involvement and actively contributing to the National Football League Players Association.
The athlete actually began his college career playing Quarterback for the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his enrollment, no one had ever started as a freshmen QB for the Quakers. While attending Penn, he played 10 games. But despite the honor of being the first freshman QB in the team’s history, he was unsatisfied.
The athlete wanted to play for a division-1 team. And eventually, he was able to realize that dream by gaining a scholarship for San Diego State. After a 1997 red-shirted season, he started as QB in the second game of 1998. After that, he never looked back. He led the Aztecs to the Las Vegas Bowl and scored five rushing touchdowns while doing it.
This event was notable for the following two reasons:
- It was San Diego State’s first bowl appearance in seven years
- The QB’s five touchdowns were the most scored by a San Diego State quarterback since 1981
Then came the interesting part. The next year, he switched to playing Safety! The coaches felt that the position aligned better with his athletic abilities. He started for the Aztecs as free safety right away, making 10 tackles in his first game. Over this season, he made 68 tackles, recovered two fumbles and intercepted one pass. His prowess earned him All-Mountain West Conference honors.
As an undrafted player with the Minnesota Vikings, Brian knew the 80 to 1 odds of making the roster. After making the practice squad in 2001, he kept working. But in 2002, he received the boost he was looking for: Willie Shaw, the defensive coordinator, backed him to play. He
Brian Russell had his best season in 2003. He started at safety and had an interception in each of the first six games. At the end of the year, he had nine picks, tying Tony Parrish for the NFL lead.
His best game that year was against the Kansas City Chiefs. That day he had one fumble recovery and two interceptions for three takeaways. He also started all 16 games in 2004, making one regular season and one post-season interception. Over that time period, he was involved in 81 tackles.
In 2005, the athlete joined the Cleveland Browns and started all 16 regular season games. He made 70 tackles and had three picks. In 2006, after 12 games, 51 tackles and 1 pick, he suffered an elbow injury and had to go on injured reserve.
The athlete signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent in 2007. As a Seahawk, he played 16 games with 68 tackles and 1 pick. He stayed with them in 2008, playing in all 16 games.
2009 marked the athlete’s last year in the league.
Brian Russell NFL: NFL Players Rep
Brian got active in the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) as a player. The NFLPA is the federally authorized collective bargaining unit for NFL players. This means that, with owner representatives, the Association works on three major issues:
- Working conditions
The resulting agreement is called the Collective Bargaining Agreement or CBA. Alhough it’s called an Association, the NFLPA acts more like a union. And like a union, it exists to protect player interests while they are playing. The system works by each of the 32 teams electing reps and alternates. The reps have several duties, which include the following:
- Collecting membership dues or check-off cards
- Assisting teammates when they have a grievance
- Helping teammates appeal any fines
- Gathering group licensing authorizations from team members
- Serving as spokesmen for the NFLPA in the community
Each of the reps serve on the NFLPA Board of Representatives. They vote, bring issues up to the board, and convey information from the NFLPA to players.
NFL players bring prestige and name recognition to any organization they get involved with. This in turn, can bring much needed exposure, money and volunteers to the organization. It’s likely that these groups would not have such exposure if not for their association with the player.
Athletes have a wide variety of organizations to select from. Some get involved with groups that help a cause that the player already is familiar with. Others gravitate toward causes that allow them to mentor and teach. Some even start their own foundations.
Brian participated with time, money and name recognition in two worthy organizations. They are as follows:
- The Boys and Girls Clubs of King County in Washington: This group helps the youth of King County with after school programs, tutoring, sports and mentoring. Starting in Connecticut, the organization has been around since 1860.
- The RT Autism Awareness Foundation (RTAAF): Founded by the parents of Reece Trahan, this group focuses on autism awareness. It also has a great support program for family members and autistic children. Their focus is on the support group because they are the only ones who can help the autistic child.
As a professional football player, Brian Russell brings a lot of skills to his trade and to life. As a player’s rep, Brian Russell made it his business to learn the business side of the game. As a generous giver of time and money, Brian Russell worked with two worthy charities during his playing career.