As a kindergarten student many years ago, Brady Russell and the rest of his classmates were given an assignment to make Valentine’s Day cards.
Russell wasn’t cooperative.
“My kindergarten teacher called my mom at home,” Russell said, “and she said, ‘Brady says that he can’t cut hearts out. He said he’s made for football and nothing else.’
“So, (football) has been on my mind for my whole life.”
Russell, now a senior tight end with the Colorado Buffaloes, has grown to become a more respectful young man than he was that day, but the love of football hasn’t gone away. In fact, as Russell nears the end of his career at CU, his life-long dream could be just around the corner.
CU (1-9, 1-6 Pac-12) has two games remaining in a dismal season, including a trip to Seattle to take on the No. 15 Washington Huskies (8-2, 5-2) on Saturday (7:14 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
For Russell, it’s an opportunity to play two more games for the team he grew up loving, but it’s also another opportunity to showcase his skills for NFL scouts – and they are paying attention. He was invited this week to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January.
“(Playing in the NFL) has been a goal of mine forever and I’ve always, in my head, known I’ve been capable of it, even when I had to come walk-on here,” Russell said. “A lot of people have asked, ‘Oh, when did you start thinking you can make it to the NFL?’ Since I was six years old, five years old, four years old. That’s been what I was gonna do in my life, forever.
“It’s never been something that I’d sell myself short of just because other people didn’t see it in me. But, it’s really encouraging to have the validation of other people seeing it now too, instead of just myself.”
Russell, who earned a scholarship in his second season at CU, has caught 73 passes for 758 yards in his career, but NFL scouts showing up to CU in recent weeks have been eying his blocking. He is viewed as a potential fullback at the next level.
“I think I have kind of a unique skill set, kind of along the lines of (San Francisco 49ers fullback) Kyle Juszczyk’s body type and whatnot, so hopefully that translates over well,” he said.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Russell has tried to set himself up for an NFL career for years.
Matt Russell, one of the greatest linebackers in CU history and Russell’s uncle, has been in Russell’s corner for years. Matt, who played in the NFL from 1997-99, has worked in NFL scouting for more than 20 years. Currently, Matt is a senior personnel executive for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was in the front office of the Denver Broncos from 2009-2020.
“It’s helpful having my uncle, obviously, at the level that he’s at,” Russell said. “I get a lot of feedback on what I’m doing well and what I could do better.”
Matt told his nephew several years ago that few tight ends in the NFL are good at both receiving and blocking, so Russell has tried to excel in both areas.
“That versatility you don’t see a whole lot of in the NFL, so hopefully, that’s something I can bring,” Russell said.
Another skill that Russell has worked on for years – although he doesn’t do it for CU – is snapping for punts and field goals.
“When I was in third grade, (Matt’s) like, ‘If you want to make it to the NFL, do really good at this and you can get there,’” Russell sad. “All right, well, I can do that. So, I’ve been doing that ever since.
“I snap pretty frequently all offseason just to keep the skill up because versatility is the key to lasting a long time in the NFL.”
Prior to turning his full attention to the NFL, however, Russell is enjoying his final moments with the Buffs. This has been a rough year at CU, yet Russell has found a way to enjoy his final campaign.
“It’s kind of weird because even though it’s our worst season, it’s probably the closest group of guys, the most fun we’ve had,” Russell said. “Even in practice last year, being 4-8, there was times that we were just miserable. But the team (this year) has just stuck together so well and we’ve been able to have fun despite our circumstances the entire year and been able to bring joy every day.
“That’s been a really cool thing to see that your circumstances don’t necessarily have to dictate what you’re feeling, how you’re acting, which is something I’ve always tried to live by. The whole team is kind of embracing that.”