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FOOTBALL: LaFayette’s Jake Russell signs with Reinhardt

February 2, 2017 GMT

Brian and Tabitha Russell have been following Reinhardt University and RU football ever since their daughter, Briana, became a member of the school’s cheerleading squad a few years back.

Briana will soon be graduating, but the Russell family will have another reason to keep making the drive from LaFayette to Waleska beginning this fall.

Their son, senior Jake Russell, will continue the Reinhardt legacy as a member of the football team after signing his letter of intent to play for the Eagles, who are quickly climbing the ladder to one of the top NAIA programs in the country.

Last season, Reinhardt went 13-1 and advanced to the NAIA national semifinals before finally falling to the University of St. Francis (Ind.). The Eagles averaged over 51 points a game and allowed just under 14 a game.

“It’s crazy,” Russell said shortly after signing. “I never thought I’d be following (Briana), but Reinhardt is a really good school with a nice campus and a great sports school. I’m really blessed to be able to get to play college football.

“It’s a small school where everyone knows everybody. I like how close-knit everyone is. All the coaches are really nice. On my first visit, I felt really comfortable there. Like I was there already.”

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior had 47 total tackles this past fall to go with two sacks, three tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery at defensive end for the Ramblers, while also grading out at 75 percent on the offensive line.

He was a Walker County Dream Team pick on the defensive side of the ball and a second team All-Region 6-AAAA selection as an offensive lineman.

He said he plans to start out as a defensive end, the same position where LaFayette assistant coach Matt Yarbrough made a name for himself by becoming an NAIA All-American at Shorter during his time with the Hawks.

“I admire (Coach Yarbrough), coming from LaFayette and making the All-American team in college,” Russell said. “He put on a lot of size going from high school to college to play defensive end, so that gets me pumped up to see how big I can get and how good I can be.”

LaFayette head coach Chad Fisher called it “a great opportunity” for his two-way standout.

“Obviously, they have established their program at Reinhardt with a tremendous amount of success,” Fisher said. “I think he’ll do well. He has the family ties there and it’s the place he wanted to go, so fortunately it worked for him to sign there. I think he’s got a bright future, whether it’s on the offensive or defensive line.”

Russell said he is undecided on a major, but is considering Criminal Justice, Sports Marketing or Sports Management.