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Colorado's Brady Russell makes a catch against the Utah Utes in Pac-12 football Saturday in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Colorado’s Brady Russell makes a catch against the Utah Utes in Pac-12 football Saturday in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Going from walk-on to captain is quite an accomplishment.

Brady Russell wanted more, of course, out of his six years in Boulder. Yet, for those who watched him play during his career with the Colorado Buffaloes, there was no question he embodied the grit and toughness that led a group of friends to found the Buffalo Heart Award in 1998.

Following Saturday’s 63-21 loss to No. 14 Utah at Folsom Field, Russell was honored as the 25th recipient of the Buffalo Heart Award.

“It means a ton to me,” Russell said. “That’s been here during CU’s prime years and everything, so I know that my name is now in the books with some people that I really respect and people that have done a lot for this program. So it’s a huge honor to be recognized and I’m really thankful for it.”

CU fans Pat Grimes, Craig Augustin and Ashley and Thaddeus Cernac created the award in 1998 – the year Russell was born.

Russell is the first tight end to ever win the award, and it was presented after he posted four catches for 39 yards against the Utes.

A walk-on from Fossil Ridge High School in 2017, Russell earned a scholarship by 2018.

He finished his career with 78 catches for 799 yards, which both rank among the top eight in program history for tight ends.

“This might come off the wrong way, but I envisioned a lot more success in all reality,” Russell said. “I had a lot of belief in myself. I expected a lot more from myself and from this team in all honestly. I know I probably accomplished more than what a lot of people thought I would coming in my freshman year, but … I don’t want to say I’m not satisfied because I am proud of the work that I put in at CU, but I’m never gonna have a place where I’ve accomplished everything that I think I could accomplish. There’s always more to go for in this world.”

During his career, the Buffs went 24-42 and played in one bowl game, the 2020 Alamo Bowl, but Russell missed that game with an injury. Above all, he said he’ll cherish the relationships he built.

When he got to the locker room after Saturday’s loss, he said he didn’t feel emotional.

“I had kind of just an overwhelming feeling of contentment and peace, even though what just happened just happened (against Utah),” he said. “Just because I know that I personally gave everything. I have no regrets about anything I’ve done. I have no regrets to coming back (this year). So I guess it was kind of a feeling of peace and contentment through Christ just that even though I’ve been in all this chaos, I found a way to the next step every time so far.”

Buffalo Heart Award Winners

1998: Darrin Chiaverini, WR

1999: Mike Moschetti, QB

2000: Eric McCready, WR

2001: Cortlen Johnson, RB

2002: Tyler Brayton, DT

2003: Medford Moorer, FS

2004: Bobby Purify, RB

2005: Joel Klatt, QB

2006: Thaddaeus Washington, LB

2007: Jordon Dizon, LB

2008: Ryan Walters, FS

2009: Cha’pelle Brown, CB

2010: Cody Hawkins, QB

2011: Rodney Stewart, RB

2012: Will Pericak, DE

2013: Parker Orms, S

2014: Greg Henderson, CB

2015: Nelson Spruce, WR

2016: Sefo Liufau, QB

2017: Phillip Lindsay, RB

2018: Rick Gamboa, LB

2019: Tim Lynott Jr., OL

2020: Nate Landman, LB

2021: Nate Landman, LB

2022: Brady Russell, TE