EAST LANSING – Anthony Russo spent five seasons at Temple and left as one of the best quarterbacks in program history.
Suiting up for the Owls allowed him to stay close to his family in Doylestown, Pa.
Yet, Russo needed a change.
And in January, he transferred from Temple to Michigan State.
"They are very family-oriented here, which is something I take pride in, being a family-first kind of guy," Russo told reporters in a videoconference. "I just thought it was a great fit, not only football-wise but academically. For what I wanted to do, it was a great fit as well. To me, it was a no-brainer."
Russo finished 16-10 as a starter at Temple and ranks third all-time in passing yards (6,292), passing TDs (44), passing completions (536), and fourth for passing attempts (899). He started the first three games in 2020 but missed the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury. With one season of eligibility remaining, he entered the portal.
"My main reason for leaving Temple was I didn't feel that I was progressing both on and off the field as a quarterback," said Russo. "I don't think I was where I needed to be."
After announcing his intent to transfer on Dec. 3, the 6-foot-4 signal-caller heard from a few universities; however, in speaking with head coach Mel Tucker and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson, Russo saw a system he wanted to play in.
"It's a true pro-style offense, under center, pro-style pass concepts, pro-style run game," said Russo. "(It's) everything that I've kind of been looking for in an offense. And I knew with one year of eligibility left and my goal to play in the NFL. In order to increase my chances of doing that, I had to put myself in an opportunity that I was going to be in an offense that was similar to the next level, and I think also surrounded by guys that have that talent to be at the next level, and I think I saw right away watching film the talent that the Spartans have here at Michigan State."
Russo committed to MSU on Dec. 16, and two days later, quarterback Rocky Lombardi decided to leave, transferring to Northern Illinois.
Once he arrived in East Lansing, Russo instantly had the most experience of anyone in the Spartans QB room. Payton Thorne, who made his first career start against Penn State and appeared in four contests, is his primary competition for the job.
Although, he's been in these situations before and came out on top. In 2018, Russo started the season as Temple's backup but took over after Frank Nutile suffered an injury. He ended up keeping the job while posting a 7-3 record, leading the Owls to a bowl game.
"I think the biggest thing that I've learned through being in a couple of different quarterback competitions is just to focus on you. You can't control how other guys practice, what they do," Russo said. "All you can control every day is how hard you work, how well you prepare, your attitude, your energy that you bring to practice. Those are all things that you have control of every single day."
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