How Baylor QB Seth Russell got a 'boulder' on his shoulder

WACO, Texas -- When Art Briles describes what he seeks in a quarterback, he makes sure to mention that a chip on your shoulder isn't enough. Baylor prefers passers with a "boulder on the shoulder."

Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence had that underdog trait. Bryce Petty waited four years for his first start.

Where did Seth Russell get his boulder? His former coaches point to his senior year of high school and a humbling recruiting process that looks far more fortunate today. After all, Russell wasn't planning to end up at Baylor.

Garland High coach Jeff Jordan likes to call Russell a "throwback kid." Straight arrow. Yes sir or no sir. Teachers loved him as much as coaches did.

"I kind of equate him to a 1950s All-American hero. Big man on campus. Everybody loved him," Jordan said. "You could see him sitting in the soda shop down on the town square, you know, drinking a milkshake."

But college recruiters weren't sold on his game. Right before his debut as a junior, a broken finger on his throwing hand cost him three games, and he couldn't grip the ball properly when he did play.

What he put on tape in 2010 -- 779 passing yards, seven TDs, six INTs -- wasn't convincing. When Russell went to camps at Texas A&M and Oklahoma, coaches said they needed to see more.

"They say junior year is the biggest year for recruiting and senior year is just for show," Russell said. "The injury put me behind the 8-ball. That was disheartening."

He started working with Kevin Murray, the former Texas A&M QB who trains passers in the Dallas area. Murray retooled Russell's footwork, pocket patience, release point and anticipation.

"He put me on the right path with mechanics and building confidence," Russell said. "He'll tell you the way it is, and that's something I needed. I didn't want the sweet talk. I wanted the hard talk."

They had plenty to work on back then. As Murray remembers it, Russell's junior film wasn't attractive.

"But when you peel back the onion and look at his raw ability, I mean, jeez," Murray said.

The first recruiter who figured that out? New Kansas coach David Beaty.

He was KU's co-offensive coordinator back then, but also a Garland High alum. Beaty had spent four years coaching there early in his career. He trusted Jordan.

"I told him I thought this kid had a chance to be really, really special," Jordan said.

Russell committed to Kansas in July 2011, turning down offers from Wake Forest and North Texas. When other schools started checking in during his senior season, Russell said no thanks. He wanted to be a Jayhawk.

Four months later, the plan imploded.

Kansas fired Turner Gill. Beaty wasn't retained by Charlie Weis, who showed up with his own plan at quarterback. Transfers Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps came with him to Lawrence.

"I've been doing this a long time, and 99 times out of 100, when a new coach comes in, the school honors the scholarship," Jordan said. "It's not fair to the kid. He committed to the school and told everybody else he wasn't going anywhere else. Seth was loyal to Kansas. And then the school pulled the rug out from under him."

Had Baylor's Philip Montgomery not entered the picture, Jordan says Russell would've ended up at Louisiana-Lafayette or Louisiana Monroe.

The timing was too perfect. When Griffin went pro a year early, Montgomery needed another arm.

"I remember Philip came up and asked me, 'Why are more people not on this kid?'" Jordan recalled. "They recognized really quick that it was going to be a golden opportunity for them."

Before making his pledge to Baylor, Russell called Beaty and asked for his advice.

"I told him you can't go wrong with Art," Beaty said. "Art is as good a guy as I've ever been around, a great football coach and they're on their way up. I knew he was going to be taken care of there."

Russell wasn't ready to play when he got to Waco in 2012, and Baylor didn't need him. He spent three invaluable years incubating in Briles' offense, learning from the most productive QBs Baylor has ever had. Like his predecessors, he never considered transferring.

"When their time comes," Briles said, "they're gonna have a chance to play for the best offense in America. And that's a proven fact."

The next one up couldn't fit Briles any better: modest but confident, patient but hungry, a genuine kid and a freaky athlete.

He gained his boulder by getting underestimated. Now it's time to make a name for himself.

"I can't wait to see it," Murray said, "because I already know what's gonna happen."