Ex-USC, NFL player Russell dies

SPORTS DIGEST

Sports Digest

December 16, 2005

Darrell Russell, a former standout NFL and Southern California defensive

lineman whose promising career was derailed by drugs, was killed in a high-speed car crash in Los Angeles early yesterday.

Russell, 29, was a passenger in a car driven by former USC teammate Mike Bastianelli that went out of control about 6 a.m. and hit a curb, tree, newsstand, fire hydrant, light pole, another tree and an unoccupied transit bus, Lt. Paul Vernon said.

Both Russell and Bastianelli, 29, were unconscious when firefighters arrived. Russell died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Bastianelli died at UCLA Medical Center.

"He was a hell of a guy," Raiders receiver Jerry Porter said of Russell. "He just never found the strength to get going again after all the trouble he got into."

Russell, 6 feet 5 and 325 pounds, the No. 2 overall pick by Oakland in the 1997 draft, had a promising start in the NFL before substance-abuse problems ruined his career. He had 28 1/2 sacks in five seasons with the Raiders, making the Pro Bowl in 1998 and 1999.

"Darrell was a good guy, he really was. He was a big kid like me that had a big heart," said former Raiders offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy. "He couldn't say no to anybody. That's what had a big deal with his demise, especially in the NFL, because he couldn't let his friends go, from San Diego. He couldn't let his past go."

Russell was suspended three times for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and his career never really recovered. After being released by the Raiders at the end of his second suspension, he played briefly for the Washington Redskins in 2003 and was released before training camp by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the next year.

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