Legendary actor John Wayne once said, “True grit is making decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.”  Senior Russell Young is described as the true grit for the Hawks Football team.  Always seeking to do what is right in order to lead his team.

“No doubt about it, Russell is one of the toughest guys on our team,” says Assistant Coach Elijah Zwiep says. “The one word that best describes Russell is ‘grit’.” Young rarely comes off the field. On defense he plays linebacker, but can also be found on the defensive line in certain situations.  On offense he plays fullback which is responsible for blocking for a premier backfield in Anthony Adkins, Jeremiah Belton and Matt Lewis.  Young also is expected to carry the ball himself 5-10 times per game.

Anthony Adkins describes Young as a valuable teammate.  “Russell always keeps his head up and keeps his motor running. He’s a great teammate not only because he’s fun to play alongside but because he won’t lie to you either.  He’s always keeping it straight up with you. He don’t care whether you want to hear it or not, it’s about you needing to hear it.”

“He’s a leader in every sense of the word,” says Head Coach Josh Jaggers.  “From the start of practice until the end.  He’s the type of guy who is always first to the field and actually leads our team through our warm ups before practice.  The coaching staff doesn’t even have to go over and do it. He leads it.”

Junior teammate Tucker Shelton puts it bluntly, “Russell is like our dad on the team.  He keeps everything in line.  He doesn’t let anyone get too high or too low.  He is a straight-laced, clean cut dude (except for his own hair).  But, he is the guy everyone can go to if they need advice or help on homework, or even studying the playbook.  He won’t let you skip reps or practice.  He’s just been in the system for a while and knows how things operate.”

Young started playing in the fourth grade with the encouragement of his sister (Kayla Shoemaker).  He has played varsity football since his freshman season.  He describes himself as mentally and physically strong. “I feel like I work hard and I am determined to exceed both on and off the field. I feel like I am a pretty good leader for my teammates and my classmates.”

Young has a genuine passion for the game of football.  “I like the sport so much because of the feeling I get when I am under the lights on Friday nights. There is nothing like this feeling. I also like the competitiveness of the game between my teammates and opponents. As a team we try to be stronger and faster than one another which pushes us to do far better. As for the opponents, our team comes together like brothers to compete and win games, another feeling that is hard to beat.”

Young has been a transformation in the making.  According to Zwiep, “If you look at pictures from his freshman year to today he’s a totally different person. He’s a guy we point to when we are recruiting, looking like Peewee Herman and come out looking like Tarzan.”

Zwiep adds, “He’s an honor student as well. He works hard in the classroom and is involved in many extracurricular activities and clubs. He’s a true student-athlete.  Young carries a 4.0 and a 27 ACT.

Jaggers says, “He just goes about his business. Russell is very intense and selfless. He doesn’t care how many times he touches the ball. All he wants to do is win and he will do whatever it takes to do just that.  He’s a LaRue County Football ‘lifer’ as I’d like to say. From little league all the way through high school he’s just been a football junky. I can still vividly see him showing up for our youth camps just as eager to get going with drills as he is now.”

When asked what the expectations for Young this season are, Jaggers does not hesitate.  “Just to keep being him. To keep being the type of guy that straps his boots up every day when he comes to practice, to keep being the vocal and also selfless leader that he is. His effort in everything he does is one of those things that’s contagious. If everybody on our team had all of these qualities and brought it every day in those areas like him? I can only imagine the season we could potentially have.”

Jaggers concludes by saying, “I’d hate to think what we would be without him. He’s just that much of a contributor into the fabric that makes us what we are. His leadership and selflessness and body language are all the attributes that make him so valuable to our program.”