Eli Russ Finishes his Prep Career and Prepares to Launch his Cowboy Future
EDMOND – The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association State Championship Football weekend continued on Saturday and in the Class 3A Championship Lincoln Christian out of Tulsa claimed a 42-21 win over Ardmore Plainview.
I actually ran into former Oklahoma State Biletnikoff Award winner and All-American Justin Blackmon. Also, a former All-State receiver at Plainview, Blackmon still looks like he could play. The latest Cowboy from that proud prep program is offensive lineman Eli Russ.
The 6-5, 310 pound Russ is the longest committed player in the 2020 class for Oklahoma State. Russ made his pledge to be a Cowboy on April 18, 2018. He will enroll and check in to Oklahoma State for the spring semester and get a head start as a freshman, Next week his parents told me he will make his official visit (Dec. 13-15). However, today that wasn’t what was foremost on his mind.
“For sure, for sure it’s a family thing really …” Like most high school football players that love the game, love their teammates, and have to deal with a result that is not what they want in the final game together, Russ became choked up. It is a tough thing, really difficult.
“They kind of brought me in and I can’t be more thankful,” Russ gathered his emotions and continued. Glad we made it (to the championship game) at least.”
I asked him about hearing that the Plainview student body routinely sings country hits in the hallway in between classes.
“It is a great atmosphere,” he said. “You can’t beat it.”
It is still great for somebody in my position and the role of covering these athletes, both as recruits and then on into their collegiate careers to see the real tears and see the emotion this game imparts on them because they care.
Russ is a real deal prospect for Mike Gundy, offensive line coach Charlie Dickey and the Cowboys program. He is a grown man that really dominates most of his competition. Lincoln Christian is a good football team, but they really didn’t have a lineman that cold win battles one-on-one with Russ. He blocked his man every play often with pancake or de-cleaters on run plays and he simply pushed pass rushing defensive linemen way away from the pocket.
I knew he had been doubling up more this season and playing both ways with duty at defensive tackle. He is good at it as Lincoln Christian had to redirect their run game to go away from Russ. He finished with two tackles on defense in the contest.
“I’m going to have to work on it, we’ll see,” Russ said when I hinted he might want to talk to the Cowboys staff about some opportunity on defense. “It is not as fun for me, but if I have to do it, I will.”
I don’t think he will be doing any of that as Charlie Dickey isn’t letting him out of his sight. That will be soon to as the visit comes next weekend and the start of college comes later in January.
“I’m not really sad for myself, but playing with these guys for so long, (losing in the final game) it hurts,” Russ added. “I have a lot to look forward too. I’m trying to enjoy this right now.”
Yes, in a situation like that in football, you do enjoy the pain. You enjoy the last bus ride with teammates. You enjoy the relationships, the jokes, the friendships. Russ knows he will be stepping into a situation where he will build more of those and that starts next weekend with his official visit to Stillwater with so many of his 2020 classmates.