There's no `I' in Harrell

Nicknamed `Rudy,' three-sport athlete Russell Harrell of Joppatowne has proved to be an unselfish player - and a talented one as well.

April 26, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At first, Russell Harrell didn't get the joke.

He was playing on the Joppatowne junior varsity football team a few years ago when an assistant coach dubbed him "Rudy," which perplexed Harrell.

"Who is Rudy?" Harrell asked.

The coach then explained that Harrell reminded him of the main character in the movie Rudy, the true story of Daniel E. "Rudy" Ruettiger, who didn't have the greatest amount of talent but worked his way up to the Notre Dame varsity squad and eventually dressed for the last home game of his senior year.

Harrell's similarities to Ruettiger are why the nickname has remained to this day. The major difference between the two is that the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Harrell truly became a talented athlete - but one who never hesitates to put the team first.

"I see myself as more of a utility player," said Harrell, who also plays lacrosse and wrestles. "Wherever the coach needs me, I'll go. I don't have to be the all-star, making all the goals. A lot of people want to be the one that's seen by everyone. I just try to help."

Despite his size, Harrell served as a linebacker, kicker and member of the special teams in football. Harrell also became a top wrestler, finishing fifth in the Class 2A-1A state tournament at 160 with a 37-5 record.

This spring, the senior performed one of his most unselfish acts. He had played goalie for three years before new coach Ryan Arist asked him to fill a hole by moving to midfield this season.

Arist had only three players back from last year and thought Harrell could do more for the team there.

Harrell did that and also became a faceoff specialist, winning over 50 percent of his draws through last week and helping Joppatowne improve from 0-13 last year to 5-3 this season.

"He's one of those athletes who's not going to be the biggest or fastest out there," Arist said. "But you can put him anywhere, and he'll get the job done."

Harrell even got to go back in goal for a short time against Edgewood after a penalty on the Joppatowne goalie. The Mariners don't have a backup, so Harrell put on the equipment for a few minutes and played.

"There's a lot of `me, me, me' and `I, I, I' stuff [nowadays], not what can I do for the team," Arist said. "He takes such pride in everything he does, which is why he's so good at it."

Last winter, Harrell finished fifth at the state wrestling tournament after taking second in the region and the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.

As a member of the football team, Harrell was like another coach, said coach Bill Waibel. During the season, the team would receive a three- or four-page scouting report on Mondays and watch film that night. Waibel said that Harrell would see things on film much like a coach and have a total understanding of the scouting notes and be able to help teammates the next day.

Harrell, who saw plenty of playing time as a kicker and back-up linebacker in Joppatowne's 4-4 scheme, didn't hesitate to go back to playing on the scout team in practice if it would help the Mariners.

His mother, Laura Harrell, who has raised him as a single parent since he was 4, said she is proud of her son's willingness to take on responsibilities that others might shy away from.

"As a mom, I respect him for having the stamina to take on a lot of responsibilities and juggle things," she said. "As an adult, we have different things that happen, and I wanted to teach him about responsibility - and he understands it."

Harrell, who is considering a major in chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where he recently has been accepted, hopes to continue his athletic career there as a walk-on in a few sports.

"I always try to shoot for the highest possible goal in sports and education," Harrell said. "I want to do the best."

And now when he's called "Rudy," there's no doubt that Harrell not only gets it, but takes it as the highest of compliments.

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