They are four years apart in age and 10 million miles apart in career outlooks. Yet the differences between
Or, really, insanity. Beginning with the day he was selected first overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 NFL Draft, Russell has been surrounded by a cast of characters slightly less stable than an Absinthe-bathed emu.
His first coach,
Learning under the wings of such men would be hard enough, were the Raiders not owned and operated by someone who still thinks
But I digress. At age 20, Heyward is one of the majors' youngest players, a heavily hyped, insanely skilled outfielder who brings to mind a raw
In other words, the Braves took their time. They knew what they had; knew he was special; knew young athletes need to be nurtured and educated and shown that the line between
Though he began this year as the Braves' Opening Day right fielder, Heyward was never alone. On the bench he has
In Oakland, Russell has been dismissed as the 2010
But, really, what were the odds against such a fate? Upon being drafted, he was handed a six-year, $68 million contract -- with a whopping $31.5 million guaranteed. He had no real mentors his first two seasons, and when Oakland finally wised up and signed
So how does this end for both youngsters? Difficult to say. A betting man would place Heyward in the All Star Game and Russell in the AFL (now starting, for your Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings ...). Sports, however, have a way of surprising us. Twenty-seven years ago, another young, can't-miss outfielder made his major league debut for the Braves. His manager was
Forty years ago, another young, can't-miss quarterback made his NFL debut for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had been the No. 1 pick in the draft, but finished his first season with six touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. The ensuing three years were little better. What eventually happened?