Northwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Linfield College Male Athlete of the Year. Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year. And now, the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame. For David Russell, Class of 2002, this latest honor amounts to a well-deserved recognition of a distinguished football career that ranks as one of the greatest in Linfield history.
As a senior running back in 2002, Russell was seemingly unstoppable, scoring a Linfield and Northwest Small College record 30 touchdowns and leading the Wildcats to their first playoff victory in 10 years. He smashed the single-season rushing yards record by more than 200 yards, one of the 10 program records he set or tied that year.
But Russell was almost never a Wildcat. Upon graduating from Eddyville High School, the Burnt Woods, Ore., native moved to the opposite side of the state to attend Eastern Oregon University. After playing one unremarkable season for the Mountaineers, Russell transferred to Linfield, a decision he refers to as one of the best he’s ever made.
His first season in a Cardinal and Purple uniform, Russell helped Linfield give fifth-year head coach Jay Locey his first Northwest Conference championship – and the first league title in six years – with an unblemished 9-0 league record. The ‘Cats qualified for the playoffs, losing to Central (Iowa) in the first round. Russell played in all 10 games that season, rushing for 360 yards and three touchdowns on 63 carries.
Russell only played in four games as a junior while battling back from a high ankle sprain and separated shoulder, but still managed three touchdowns – two rushing, one receiving – and a total of 292 yards of offense.
Russell began his senior season with 147 rushing yards against Redlands, offering a hint of what was to come. It was the first of eight 100-plus rushing yard games for Russell that year, including a stretch of four straight games to end the season. The other three contests? He still totaled 90 or more yards.
By year’s end, Russell had amassed 1,541 rushing yards, breaking a 49-year single-season record held by Ad Rutschman. Russell was consistently excellent, averaging 140.1 rushing yards per contest, but also had some monster games.
In a regular-season game against Whitworth, he rushed for 234 yards on 56 carries, breaking single-game records that had stood for 25-plus years. In the NCAA Division III first round game against Wartburg, Russell virtually carried Linfield to victory, scoring five touchdowns – tying a school record – as the ‘Cats thumped the Knights 52-15.
At year’s end, Russell was honored as Linfield’s most valuable player, the NWC Offensive Player of the Year, and a first team All-American by both Hewlett-Packard and D3football.com. He was also chosen as the Linfield College Male Athlete of the Year, decided by a vote of all head coaches, and the Ad Rutschman Small College Male Athlete of the Year, honoring the state of Oregon's top male athlete from a non-Division I college or university.
Russell finished his education degree in the fall of 2002, and moved with new wife Sarah to the Alaskan bush community of Hooper Bay, located on the Bering Sea and more than 500 miles northwest of Anchorage. Today, the couple lives in the Matanuska Valley, where Sarah teaches and David is in his first year as an elementary school principal. In addition to his education degree from Linfield, Russell holds a master’s degree in K-12 administration from the University of Alaska-Anchorage, and spent 10 years teaching at the middle school level before moving up the administrative ranks. The Russells are raising three children: Kade, Kolt and Kai.