ALHAMBRA – This football season isn’t about wins and losses for Alhambra High School’s Demitrias Russell.
It’s about redemption.
Russell is on track to getting there, and by season’s end he’s hoping the comeback bid is complete, as far as football goes.
It was during the start of spring practice when Alhambra coach Lou Torres informed Russell he no longer would be on the team and wouldn’t allow him to take part in team activities.
It was the culmination to a season in which Russell, a 5-foot-10 standout wide receiver, was suspended from the Moors’ third game of the season because of what Torres called “conduct detrimental” to the team. Torres politely declined to give specifics as to what led to the suspension – and ultimate dismissal from the team – but the consequences of his misguided actions were enough to jolt Russell back to reality.
Russell needed to earn his way back to playing for the Moors, a case that lasted well into summer.
The turnaround has been impressive, to say the least.
“A complete 180 turn,” Torres said. “He’s academically eligible, he’s been to every practice, he’s putting in the work that we wanted to see from him.
“All we wanted was for him to show, and he’s gone above that.”
Russell, who’s been playing football since he was 5 and grew up playing youth football with the Alhambra Thunderbirds, needed to get back to what he loved doing most and playing for the team he’s loved most. His determination can be heard in his voice.
“No more messing around,” Russell said. “After this, it’s manhood. I need to step in and do it now.”
Russell has gone from team suspension and dismissal to one of seven team leaders this season who figures to be one of the most explosive weapons in the Moors’ arsenal. With soft hands and a knack for running the proper routes, Russell could have the breakout season he’s been hoping for.
He didn’t figure to play defense this year, but it’s looking like he could see significant time at cornerback or safety.
“He’s just that good,” Torres said. “With his off-field problems gone he can focus with on-field performances, and his progress is showing.”
Russell has made a comeback before.
When he was 12, he broke his left ankle in practice. He was in a cast that covered his entire leg.
“It was really scary at the time,” Russell said before adding he was walking again in just four weeks.
Russell stood out as a freshman, moved up to varsity and started as a sophomore.
With off-field issues in the past, Russell hopes to improve after an inconsistent junior season in which the Moors finished a disappointing 1-4 in the Almont League.
“It was disappointing, for sure,” Russell said. “We had the talent, but we didn’t put in the work. I’m working a lot harder this year.”
The comeback kid not quite, but he’s close.