KeiVarae Russell may run fast and possibly talk even faster, but the 6-foot, 175-pound running back from Everett, Wash., (Mariner High School) isn’t rushing his recruitment. Instead, he’s taking his time and planning things out.
Russell intends to take all of his official visits and has previously said Notre Dame and Washington would definitely receive officials and confirmed a third with irish Sports Daily.
“I think I’m going to take one to Cal as well. I like Cal,” said Russell. “The other two are toss-ups.”
Despite having a game at 5 p.m. West Coast time on Oct. 21, Russell plans on being in South Bend for the Irish’s game against USC on Oct. 22.
“I’m probably going to take an 11:30 flight to get down there,” he said. “I’m going to check out the game, check out the campus and all of that and just get it going.”
Russell isn’t exactly sure when his trip to Washington will be, but says it’ll be his final official visit.
“Washington is going to be the last one, just because they’re the hometown team,” he said. “I’m going to give them all of the glory and see what they’ve got. I’m going to get all of the other ones out of the way first.”
Russell could also use unofficial visits if he still has more than five schools on his list this fall. Russell said the three schools he has plans to take official visits to are recruiting him the hardest, especially the Irish and the Huskies, who are sticking out at the moment.
“Those two are standing out because of academics, the success they’re for sure going to have and how I could play,” he said. “After I graduate, I could have that degree in my back pocket.”
Russell hasn’t spoken to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly yet, but Irish West Coast recruiter Mike Denbrock and running backs coach Tim Hinton have been in touch plenty and have told Russell that their boss is very excited about him.
“I talk to them all of the time,” Russell said. “They were hella excited when I told them I wanted to go to the night game against USC. They said that’s going to be good for me to see that.”
Besides the value of a Notre Dame degree, Russell believes he’d have the opportunity to play early at Notre Dame.
“They’re looking for me to play early,” he said of the Irish. “I know a lot of teams tell recruits that, but I actually truly believe them. They keep telling me, ‘We could get anybody we want. We wouldn’t be coming at you this hard if we didn’t want you to play.’ They like the character I have. Let’s say somebody is better than me, I have a better character. They keep telling me to maintain that GPA and what I have. They see that I want to be more than just one thing. They know I’ll bring that onto the football field too. They said I’ll fit that program.
“A school like Notre Dame, they’re lacking running backs for some reason. They’ve been getting good quarterbacks and receivers. I know if I went to Notre Dame, I could play a little bit. I know if I went to UW, I‘d play slot for sure because they’ve got a lot backs, but they don’t have any big-play slots.”
Russell said a recent story on his recruitment mischaracterized his desire to play slot receiver.
“People misread what I said about I hate contact,” he said. “Come on now, I’m in a wing-T offense. I enjoy contact. I play safety and fullback in a wing-T. From my knowledge, those two positions have a lot of contact every game.
“I want to go in and play slot/running back until they get me bigger. When’s the last time you heard about a 6-foot, 175-pound running back? That’s not happening. Once they get me to 190-something, I think I’ll be able to get in the backfield and be an every-down back. To my knowledge, I don’t think I’d be an every-down back right away. You could get me in there for a few plays, put me back at the slot, throw me some passes. I’m going to be that kind of versatile guy.”
Russell isn’t waiting to get to college to get bigger, though.
“I’m getting stronger and faster,” he said. “When I go to camps, I compare very well with other top players. I’m going to be going to this big camp next week called The Opening. I want to see how I compare with the top 150 players in the nation. I think I’ll compare favorably because I’ve been getting faster, stronger and I can go against anybody with confidence.”
Russell repeatedly mentions academics when asked about the main factors in his recruitment. He understands there’s always room for improvement and wants to be challenged in all aspects, including education.
“I want to go to a big school like a Notre Dame, like a Cal, like a Stanford, like a Vanderbilt so that my critical thinking increases quite a bit throughout the four years I’m there,” he said. “Also, is the city very supportive? I want to go to a school where they support you as a person, not just as a football player.”
Russell doesn’t want to be surrounded by a negative atmosphere.
“I don’t want people that hate people,” he said. “I love rivalries, but I don’t want any trashy city around me.”
The coaches will also play a major role and Kelly, Steve Sarkisian and Jeff Tedford have helped their schools.
“How long is the coaching staff going to be there?” said Russell. “I don’t want to commit and all of a sudden the coaching staff gets fired. That’s one of the reasons I like UW. Sarkisian is going to have his job forever, for a minute.
“That’s the same with Coach Kelly. Coach Kelly has had a winning career and Coach Tedford as well. He’s had a bad last two seasons, but other than that, he’s had a winning career. That’s why those three stick out. All three of them, if they just keep doing what they’re doing, they should have their jobs for a while and they’ve been showing a lot of respect for me.”
Russell plans to announce his decision after his senior season, but before he participates in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.