Russell talks to SI about suspension, return

12 Comments

Last week, we checked in on KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame’s soon-to-be-returning star cornerback. Thanks to some reporting by Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated—along with his own presence on social media—it’s easy to see that Russell’s been putting in the work home in Everett, Washington, while he awaits re-admission into Notre Dame.

While Russell’s stayed off the record with reporters covering the Irish beat, he spoke with Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel, who traveled to the Pacific Northwest to spend some time with the exiled Irish cornerback. The result was an interesting profile that took a closer look at the student-athlete that’ll be returning to campus.

Russell was understandably tight-lipped about the academic transgressions that cost four football players the entire season and Eilar Hardy eight games. But SI’s reporting finally put in writing the academic crime that was widely speculated about: improper assistance during the summer semester.

This from the report:

The school charged Russell and his four teammates with receiving illicit academic help from a former student trainer. Russell admits to getting “lazy” and “taking the easy way out,” but beyond that only says, “I didn’t cheat on a test. I didn’t pay people to do my homework.”

The penalty cost Russell and Ishaq Williams two semesters, with Williams status with the Irish and at the university still in question. While Kendall Moore had already earned his degree and Eilar Hardy graduated and will play out his eligibility at Bowling Green, DaVaris Daniels’ left Notre Dame without his diploma, going undrafted last month before signing with the Minnesota Vikings.

Russell’s departure during training camp came in the lead up to what many expected to be a breakout season towards potential stardom. With the option to play immediately at the FCS level  in 2014 or transfer and play in 2015 somewhere else, Russell told SI, “When you go through something as important as almost getting football and a college degree stripped away from you, you take a deep breath.”

Russell also lost out on being named a captain, something athletic director Jack Swarbrick told him the coaches had decided upon during August camp.

“I busted out crying, just bawling. It was uncontrollable.”

But it’s all looking forward for Russell. He’ll find out in the coming week of his re-admittance, and he’ll be back with his teammates come June. And from there, it’ll be tough to slow down a defensive back who is hellbent on making up for lost time—pulling motivation from giving up two touchdowns against Michigan in 2013 to never wanting to be anything like his estranged father.

“My ambition comes from something bigger than me,” Russell told SI. “The reason why I work so hard, it’s to be something I want to be that’s better than just an athlete. I want to be a better father, son and brother.”

You can read the entire profile here.