While Ohio State clearly was in a celebratory mood Saturday evening after dismantling Iowa 38-17 at Kinnick Stadium, at least one player and his family weren’t happy.
To be sure, they were grateful for the win, but they were also concerned. Redshirt freshman Anderson Russell, a pleasant surprise at free safety, suffered a season ending injury covering a first-quarter kickoff. He suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and was helped off the field. He did not return.
Russell’s mother, Karen, commented, “After talking to (OSU team physician Chris) Kaeding yesterday and today and talking to a contact at his high school who has seen Anderson in the past, Dr. Royster, a well regarded orthopaedist here, it does sound like it is a complete tear. The good news is that it seems like that is the only thing. There was no patella or MCL involved.”
The family at this point is unsure of how the injury occurred other than the fact that it was on a kickoff. His parents, Kevin and Karen, were attending a volleyball game for Russell’s younger sister.
“Anderson has really not alluded to how it happened,” said Karen. “Needless to say he is devastated. I’m not sure he is focused on how it happened as much as it just happened.”
The first word they received of the injury was from family and friends via cell phone.
She had the typical reaction of any mother.
“The first thing I asked when I received the phone call was, ‘Is he conscious?’ That was the only thing I wanted to know,” she said.
Reassured he was fine but simply hurt and unable to put weight on his leg, they were initially told it was his ankle but later discovered it was, in fact, his knee.
“He called us on our way back to Atlanta (from the volleyball tournament),” she said. “I guess it was about 11:30. He said, ‘Mom they are fairly certain I have torn my ACL.’ It has been tough for him.”
Russell was just coming into his own as a Buckeye. He had started the last four games at safety and had tallied 16 tackles on the season. With Russell out, sophomore Jamario O’Neal filled in and had four tackles in the win at Iowa.
With Russell never suffering an injury of any note previous to Saturday night, this is a completely new experience.
“I talked to him about taking a different role,” Karen Russell said. “He has to become an encourager, and that is tough. This is one of those painful disappointments that life forces us to endure. It is almost a little bit of a grief process for him working through it and accepting it.”
The surgery to repair his knee has been scheduled for Oct. 18.
Karen Russell didn’t have enough complimentary words for the care her son has received thus far at Ohio State.
“The medical staff has been wonderful,” she said. “They have been very gracious about calling; they called me today. The school has been wonderful. The section for students with disabilities picked him up today, and drove him to class so he didn’t have to walk. My prayer will be for him to be able to come back as good as new.”
The first challenge will be his apartment. Rooming with fellow defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, Russell lives upstairs.
“I don’t know if we need to help he and Malcolm (Jenkins) figure out something different about where he is going to sleep for a few days,” she said. “He will be on crutches for 7-10 days afterward.”
Generally speaking, crutches and stairs rarely mix with great results.
Still, that is a minor inconvenience compared to the road ahead.
“The biggest part will be rehabbing and then the mental aspect of getting back out on the field and trusting your knee,” she said.
It will help that his father, Kevin, suffered a knee injury during his playing days as a defensive back. Still, knowing Russell as others have reported him to the media, his greatest challenge will likely not be working at the rehabilitation process but rather working too hard.
Karen Russell acknowledged the risk given her son’s overachieving temperament.
“Today he told me, ‘I have to keep doing my exercises to keep my quadriceps strong because that impacts the healing.’ I said, is that you talking or Dr. Kaeding talking? He said, ‘No, he told me that.’ ” she said.
The medical staff and Russell are already working on a rehabilitation plan. After 7-10 days, Russell will graduate to a recumbent bike. A week or so following, he will graduate to a rehab pool to do exercises.
While it is never reassuring for a child to be injured, Karen is at least grateful to know “the facilities are so comprehensive in scope he has access to what he needs there.”
Russell is expected to make a full recovery.