COLUMBUS, OH—Standing a slender 6 feet 3 inches and dawning an all black Ohio Dominican uniform on his senior night, Grant Russell receives his final meaningful snap of his collegiate career. A three-step drop back followed by a quick release into the hands of a receiver running a 10-yard dig downfield. After making two would-be tacklers miss, the Panther receiver sprints 25 yards to the end zone. That particular play ended up being the final pass of Russell’s collegiate career and was expected to be the last pass he would throw in Columbus.
Fast forward one and a half years and Grant Russell and the Columbus Destroyers have made it back home.
After taking over the starting spot week one, Russell has continued his growth as the leader and quarterback of the team. He has shown week-after-week improvement but still without the defining statistic for a quarterback: a win.
Columbus entered the second of three matchups with the Albany Empire with a record of 0-3, hoping to finally add a “W’ to the win column. Unfortunately for Columbus, they will have to wait another week for a shot at their first win losing to Albany, 56-40, as turnovers were the story for the Destroyers.
The first offensive play in 10 years for Columbus was in direct contrast to the picturesque final play of Russell’s ODU career. Russell was tripped up on the snap and lost the ball on the Columbus 1-yard line resulting in an Empire touchdown.
Russell, however, would recover quickly. On the ensuing drive, the Newark, Ohio native led a scoring drive that was capped off by a perfectly thrown 19-yard touchdown pass to Fabian Guerra to tie the game at seven.
This became a recurring theme for Russell, an avoidable turnover then would lead the Destroyers to a score on the next drive.
Destroyer head coach Matthew Sauk acknowledged the turnovers but remains high on Russell.
“He’s gotten better [each game], he can make every throw. The biggest thing is making the read quicker and taking care of the football…I’m trying to build around Grant, he’s going to be great. But it’s a process and unfortunately the process sucks sometimes.”
Those three turnovers led to 21 points for Albany and in a game that was only decided by two scores, every opportunity and points matter. Especially when the two interceptions were thrown in the end zone.
“I just have to quit turning the ball over,” Russell said “the defense played well enough for us to win but I just have to be better.”
The turnovers were the big story in the game but there were plenty of positives in the young quarterback’s game and wide receiver Fabian Guerra echoed the sentiment.
“I think he’s a really good quarterback and he’s only going to get way better,” Guerra said. “He’s so smart and he’s a great guy on and off the field…We all make mistakes and we just have to be better.”
Overshadowed in the Russell and Destroyer homecoming, was Guerra. The all-purpose playmaker finished his day with six (!) touchdowns, a new Columbus Destroyer franchise-record—four receiving touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and kickoff return touchdown but still won’t call it a perfect game.
“I’m so hard on myself I want to be perfect every play,” he said. “Even though I had a six touchdown performance I still want to be perfect on every little play.”
The pieces and skillset seem to be there for Columbus but sitting at 0-4, time is running out quick.
“At the end of the day you just have to look at yourself in the mirror,” Russell said, “and figure out what you have to do better and I will.”