Interview: Jimmie Russell - 10 Years In Europe, And Counting


It may be easy to become an import, however, it takes hard work and dedication to stay an import. On average, imports stay for 3 years in Europe. However, there's quite a few guys who have been around for a long time, helping their teams and football advance. One of them is QB Jimmie Russell, who has spent 10 years playing and coaching in Europe, and is still going strong.

First Time In Europe

I first had the opportunity to play in Europe thanks to a coach I really respected in college. He presented me with the opportunity to play for a team in Europe, and it sounded like the perfect way to broaden my horizons and play the game I love for a living at the same time. I never looked back.

I played for the Pori Bears in Finland, and to be honest it was a huge culture shock coming from college life in Florida. The food was weird, the bathrooms were tiny and the language completely incomprehensible! But they're all things you get used to. Football wise the game was actually pretty developed already over there in 2008 so that was great to see.

Adapting

It took me a little while to find my feet, but I have always been lucky to have fantastic teammates around me everywhere I've played, who have shown me places in a way you would never get to see just being a tourist. It's a great way to travel.

In terms of the game, I kept in constant contact with the coaches and had watched a lot of European football on YouTube (there wasn't a lot back then!) so I had some ideas. I didn't see the difference in standard as a negative thing, it's just the way of life in Europe.


Football In Europe Over The Years

One of the best things about being in Europe over the last ten years has been watching the sport grow. From numbers of fans in the stands, to the standard of play, to all the off field action now happening such as film, agents, youth camps, gear and hype on the day of the Superbowl.

When I first came to Europe on gameday it was completely different, just a dedicated few players and a grass field with a stand for 50 spectators, if that. Now we have full stadiums, drone cameras, cheerleaders, photographers, videographers, commentators, merchandise, VIP seating, season ticket holders, radio interviews, full league highlights, live streaming of the games, etc. Also with the NFL making footprints this side of the ocean again, I'm excited to see what will happen over the next 10 years.

The Most Memorable Moments

Playing in six championships, that never gets old and each one was memorable and special in its own way. Being able to see 28 different countries while here. Helping to put French football on the map, arguably now one of the top three countries in Europe.

One of my proudest moments was perhaps having my oldest son coming to Europe for the first time and watching me play in the French semi final game, where he was invited to run out onto the field leading the team. I'll never forget that day.


Through The Eyes Of An OC

I wish I could coach those guys five nights a week, some of these young players have real potential and could go far if they could just get the intensity of practice we do with the youth back home.

American colleges and the NFL both have eyes in Europe now - these kids need to stop settling for being the best player on the team and dream bigger, about being the best player in the world. It could change their life.

Domestic players need to work on things like practicing when one is looking. Don't seek validation from others, if you practice hard enough it will show. Study the game. Go to as many camps as you can. If you have learnt everything you can from the coaches you have, get on YouTube, find drills, be resourceful. Don't settle for being good, strive to be great. To do that you need internal drive. Almost get obsessed with game.

Something else very important - develop your European quarterbacks. Then keep the American imports for other strategic positions.

Bringing An Import QB

Choose one that fits your specific offense. For example, there's no point having an I formation pocket passer if you run a spread zone read option offense. Numbers and stats are very important, but more importantly, does he motivate the players around him? Does he create a team atmosphere? He needs to be able to articulate his thoughts to the team and have patience for implementing complex systems. A good leader. And lastly he must have the 'it' factor, be hard working and be a winner.


Advice For Rookie Imports

Respect and understand that just because something is different, (and it will be!) doesn't mean to say it's bad. You are representing your country and college and your behaviour should reflect that. Release all expectations. Say 'Yes' to every opportunity you get to travel or see something new. Meet and interact with as many local people as possible. Play your ass off. And to have fun.

2017

Playing for Aix-en-Provence Argonautes. For me Aix is now the place I call home, the south of France is like paradise to me. I've made life long friends here, got married here, and life is great.

Football wise I'm here thanks to a fantastic coach Matthias Torre who is an inspiration to me. Goals - adding a 6th Championship to my name.

I've also started an agency (Atlas Pro Sport) with a view to making better connections between teams and talent between Europe and the USA in both directions and I'm looking to develop this. For camps I have been in talks with Brandon Collier to run some camps for young players to help them fulfill the dream of one day playing football in the USA. I'm really excited about this.
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