KEENE SENTINEL: "Keene High product making noise for Stonehill football team"

Sentinel Staff

Taylor Russell was once one of the best high school linemen in New Hampshire. Now, the Stonehill College senior is one of the best defensive tackles in the NCAA Division II Northeast-10 Conference.

That's not enough, though, for the Keene High graduate. He's always looking forward.

Every snap is a reboot. It's not about the last play, but rather the next play, the next challenge.

"Sure, I'd like to keep playing, go to the next level — the NFL, or Canada or overseas," Russell, who goes 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, said. "We've had players go to Europe and play pro ball."

First, Russell and Stonehill want a piece of league bully American International, which handed the Skyhawks their only two losses last season, the second coming in the NE-10 championship game.

All-time, Stonehill is winless in 18 games against the Yellow Jackets.

Kickoff is set for today at 1 p.m. at Ronald J. Abdow Field in Springfield, Mass., and Russell will be smack-dab in the middle of the action.

Both teams are 1-1, with losses to Division I Stony Brook. The Skyhawks beat Bentley last week; the Jackets slipped past Assumption.

"Taylor's been a mainstay on our defensive line for the last few years," Stonehill Coach Robert Talley said. "He's a smart player with great size and athletic ability. He's hard to single block, so he usually demands double teams.

"We need for him to be a dominating force for us this year, and he's responded."

In last week's win over Bentley — the Skyhawks' first win in Waltham, Mass., in 19 years — Russell racked up a career-best 11 tackles to go with two sacks. Bentley managed just 91 yards rushing.

For the season, he has 15 tackles (seven solo).

"My athleticism gives me an edge," Russell said after practice this week. "I have good speed for 300 (pounds). I'm told I'm really quick for my size. That helps me make plays."

Defensive coordinator Eli Gardner added, "He has a lot of (size and strength) you look for in a player, but he's also very quick and has a great feel for what the other team is trying to do with their blocking."

Russell is holding his own against quality linemen — "Almost all of them have a size advantage on me," he said — and against quality players who are at least getting sniffs in the pro ranks.

Russell and teammate Nate Robitaille, a receiver, went to an NFL Junior Day at Bentley. Players ran 40 times and got measured.

"I got to see a little of the business side of football," Russell said. "At least I'm on a card somewhere on a desk, with 32 teams."

Russell just wants a chance, be it stateside at the highest level or on the other side of the world. And if others from the NE-10 can do it, he said, then he can, too.

Merrimack quarterback Joe Clancy, the NE-10 player of the year last year, is playing in Russia.

"The most hyped-up player last year was Mike Flacco, (Baltimore quarterback" Joe Flacco's little brother. He got picked up by the Chargers."

San Diego cut the former New Haven tight end before the season.

"I think it would be cool to play in Europe," Russell, an All-State selection in football at Keene who also played basketball and, at times, baseball and lacrosse. "They cover travel, expenses — sounds like fun."


Taylor Russell's family — father, Chris; mom, Janet; brother, Cameron; and sister, Kaily — attend most games. ... Stonehill was the only player to recruit Russell as a defensive lineman. The others wanted him to play on the offensive side. ... Russell has added two inches and 25 pounds since getting to college. ... Alex Parenteau, a freshman at Stonehill, is the only other player from Keene to play with Russell at the Easton, Mass., college of roughly 2,600 students.

Stonehill Stops Bentley, 24-17
September 12, 2014 Stonehill Stops Bentley, 24-17