Trading E-Mail With ... Vikings safety Brian Russell, the NFL interceptions coleader

November 03, 2003

SI: You grew up in Southern California and played quarterback in
high school, so why did you go to Penn to play football?

Russell: We had a running team in high school, which didn't do
much for a quarterback trying to sell himself to Division I
schools. I loved Philadelphia and Penn, but tuition to Penn isn't
cheap and I eventually wound up at San Diego State.

SI: Trying to make the team as a free agent in 2001, what did you
think when you lined up across from Randy Moss for the first

Russell: I never thought much about it. I told myself if I wanted
to succeed, I'd have to cover a lot of great receivers.

SI: Mike Tice says you were pretty confident about winning a
starting job this year.

Russell: I ran into Coach Tice during the off-season, and he was
telling me what he expected of me on special teams. I told him I
thought that was great, but that I'd also be his starting safety.
Coach Tice is a straight-forward coach so I was just being open
about my goals. I don't think he took me seriously, which is
understandable because it didn't mean anything until I showed him
I could do it.

SI: Corey Chavous, your teammate at safety, says you've had
success, in part, because you spend so much time studying

Russell: Corey and I work well together because we prepare
thoroughly. That goes for our entire defense. I'd guess we study
between 10 and 15 hours of film each week. It helped me get my
hands on a couple of balls. We saw that Az Hakim would be a
primary target for Detroit when he lined up in the slot, so I
cheated to his side a few times and was able to intercept one.