February 18, 2013

The Russell Rules

AUBURN -- Ryan Russell found himself in a difficult position two months ago when his boss at Arkansas State asked him about moving to Auburn.

From a professional standpoint? It was a no-brainer. Russell worked on the Plains during two different stints -- met his wife Sarah during the first one, enjoyed the second one as well - and grew to love the community. He also played a role in designing the weight room overhaul that was completed in 2012.

Yet the decision wasn't exactly easy.

Taking the Auburn job meant unseating one of his mentors, Kevin Yoxall, who'd been with the program since 1999.

"That was something I thought about because 'Yox' made a huge impact on my career," Russell said. "He's one of the best in the business and, without a doubt, he always did right by me. At the same time, I had a relationship with Coach Malzahn and this is what Coach Malzahn wanted to do. It was tough (to replace Yoxall), but me and him are fine. We've talked about it. I can't say enough good things about him."

Russell, 32, has made the most of his nine weeks on the job.

He removed a line of weight racks and filled the space with a swath of synthetic grass. Why? He believes the ability to accelerate quickly, an "explosion" as Russell calls it, is one of the most critical skills associated with being a good athlete.

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