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Southlake Style

From Super Bowl to Super Dad

Jan 30, 2014 02:42PM ● By Anonymous

Southlake Style sits down with Russell Maryland

Exactly two decades ago Russell Maryland was considered by many as one of the best defensive lineman in the country.  A two time All-American defensive tackle at the University of Miami, he completely dominated the competition at the highest collegiate levels. Running a 4.8 second 40 yard dash at just under 300 pounds, Russell was a shining example of immense power and speed. Perhaps his star shined no brighter than his senior year of 1990 when he compiled 10.5 sacks and 96 tackles. The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) honored Russell that season with the coveted Outland Trophy solidifying his place as college football’s best interior lineman.

That same year the #5 ranked Hurricanes faced off against the #3 Texas Longhorns in the 1991 Cotton Bowl. In an outstanding New Year’s Day performance, Russell tallied 9 tackles, including 3 sacks, as the Hurricanes defense stifled the Longhorns in a 46-3 rout. The year was off to a great start and only got better after Russell became the #1 draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in the ensuing 1991 NFL draft. He wasted no time acclimating himself to the NFL and immediately made an impact on the Cowboys defense playing in all 16 games in his rookie season. By his second season, he was a full time starter wreaking havoc on the front lines and helping the Cowboys bring home the first of three Super Bowl Championships in the 1990’s.

1993 was another stellar year culminating in a second Super Bowl Championship. In arguably his best season as a Cowboy, Russell set a career high in tackles en route to a Pro Bowl selection. More importantly, he and teammates; Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin  set the tone for an eventual third championship in 1995 thus making NFL history and establishing the 1990’s as a decade of dominance for the Dallas Cowboys. 

Decorated and proven at the highest levels of competition Russell Maryland’s collegiate and professional football career was nothing short of impressive. In addition to three Super Bowl rings, the former consensus All-American and #1 draft pick played in 154 NFL games tallying 24.5 sacks and 375 tackles. He retired in 2000 and was enshrined in the University of Miami Hall of Fame in 2001.

Exactly two decades later…

It’s 6:00 am in Southlake and Russell Maryland still gets up early – except now-a-days it’s to run down the school bus and not opposing quarterbacks. Today, Russell tows the line for his wife of 16 years Rose and their three children; Kyra (13), Iris (10) and R.J. (6). In honor of the big game coming to North Texas, I recently sat down with Russell to reminisce about his Super Bowl experiences, life after football in Southlake, and what it takes to be a championship dad.

Southlake Style: What were your most memorable Super Bowl moments?

Russell Maryland: Not many are fortunate enough to go to one Super Bowl, let alone three. I consider myself very lucky to have played in three Super Bowls. The first one was definitely the most memorable. It felt great to be there representing the Cowboys. Back then we were a young team and everything just seemed to be in a fog, but what I remember most are the practices the week leading up to the game. We had great practices where we had to simulate the no huddle offense of Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills. In practice, Coach Johnson had two separate squads on offense, so we would make one play then hustle over to the other field for the next play. 

SS: Sounds like a lot of hard work in preparation?

RM: We felt great. The practices were crisp and we were focused.

SS: What else really sticks out?

RM: Having my mom, dad and wife-to-be there sharing the experience with me.

SS: Did they give you any words of advice?

RM: In Chicago growing up, both of my parents had a great work ethic and they passed it on to me. My dad worked for Chrysler Corp and really blazed a trail for African Americans in our area. My mom worked as an accountant for the city’s police department. My dad said what he always said to us as kids, “Son… you’ve got to work hard. You have to outwork everyone else.”  

SS: And you took that with you as you ran out onto the field before kickoff? What did it feel like to run out on the field for the Super Bowl?

RM: (laughing) The offense always gets introduced and runs onto the field. I really remember the fly over just before kick-off. I said to myself, “It’s time. We’re ready. We’re here.” It would have been nice to be introduced, but I wouldn’t change a thing, we still won. 

We were a team of 53 and every Super Bowl team has its superstars. We had Troy [Aikman], Emmitt [Smith] and Mike [Irvin]. I had the best seat in the house. It was a blessing to watch those guys go to work. We had a nucleus on defense too. Tony Tolbert, Jim Jeffcoat and Leon Lett were some greats. I put myself in that category too. I was one of a great 53.

SS: How about standing victorious afterward?

RM: It was unbelievable, grown men were crying and kissing the ground, there was lots of elation. We were all congratulating each other and saying, “Let’s do it again!” Oh, then we poured Gatorade on Coach Johnson, we got to mess up his hair!

SS: It’s been 20 years since you were the #1 Draft pick of the Cowboys and 10 years since you hung up your cleats, how has the game changed from when you played?

RM: The number one thing is the money. As a number one pick myself I can’t complain, but number ones in 2011 will see dozens of millions more. When guys make that much money they wield a lot of power in a franchise and that doesn’t always bode well for working relationships. It remains to be seen if all the money will have an ill effect on the game. Even though most players still come to work and work hard each day, some guys make a lot of money and refuse to get better…it hurts teams and coaches. I definitely sympathize with today’s coaches.

SS: But with the money also comes a lot of attention and scrutiny, wouldn’t you agree? Today’s players have even more to deal with outside the lines than ever before.

RM: True. When I was coming up the February combines were more like a meat market. Players were physically checked from head to toe. Now-a-days a players emotional and psychological background play a very important role in their future. Teams now delve into their draft picks backgrounds to find out what makes them tick. Make a wrong decision and the media will be all over them.

That’s another thing, the amount media has blown up and they all want to have their take on the game. There is immediacy for information amongst the “cyber-instigators”. Nobody needs to know what players are doing 24/7. 

SS: I agree, but with money comes celebrity. I could live without knowing whether or not Dez Bryant was carrying someone’s pads at practice though.

RM:  That whole situation was overanalyzed and blown way out of proportion. In 1991 something like that would have been handled in house. Today it’s done in the media.

SS: We can all agree that the Super Bowl coming to Texas is a great thing.  What are you looking forward to most about Super Bowl week in your backyard?

RM:  I am looking forward to many of the events. It’s been a great pleasure of mine to work with the Super Bowl Host Committee. Working alongside those who have been planning this year’s Super Bowl has given me a whole new perspective. As a player it was only my job to show up at certain events and the game itself, now I have seen what goes into making it all happen and it gives me a new respect for what is done behind the scenes. I’ve worked with the Super Bowl Legends Action Team and SLANT-45 and I’m also looking forward to the Super Bowl Breakfast, the Host Committee Party and the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration and the Taste of the NFL. 

SS: Will you be going to the game or watching from your home in Southlake?

RM: We’ll be going to the game. I have little choice, my oldest daughter is in love with Justin Bieber and she is hoping he will be there too! Seriously, we’re looking forward to the game and all the excitement. 

SS: So the whole family is going, that’s a table for…?

RM: Five. My wife Rose and my three children Kyra (13), Iris (10) and R.J. (6). 

SS: What’s a typical day like in the Maryland homestead?

RM:  Family is big with me and my wife and we love watching our kids grow up. With one at Eubanks, one at Dawson, and one at Rockenbaugh we have a wide array of teachers and extracurricular activities that keep us busy. 

Typically, I get up around 6:00 am and get the kids ready for school. We like to start the day with good food. My wife says I make a mean breakfast and keep a mean kitchen. The kids enjoy pancakes, biscuits and my special chicken, egg and cheese pannini. Then it’s off to the bus stop with R.J. and driving the girls to their schools.

SS: And while the kids are at school?

RM:  It’s a big challenge keeping my weight off. I love to eat and luckily I love to work out too. At 41 years old the body starts to break down a little and for football players it can be exponentially faster. I hit the weights with a trainer three times a week and five days a week I take a one hour walk.

After that I’m usually fielding phone calls and emails at my office. There are always many opportunities to be involved with the community. I do my best to take part in charitable organizations where I can do more than just be a “pretty face” (laughing). I don’t just like to lend my name, I want to be hands on and have an affinity for what they are doing. 

SS: We’ve seen you around quite a bit. What organizations have you been involved with locally?

RM: Locally, I served as a founding member of Digging for Dragons, a grass roots organization that aims to expand educational opportunities for our kids. Since we started we’ve made remarkable strides and have distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the CISD. I’ve also been involved with Southlake Youth Football, The Cowboys of Color Museum in Fort Worth and Summer Santa to name a few. 

SS: And when the kids come back home?

RM: I’m busier than I ever thought I would be. When the kids get back home I completely shut down whatever I’m doing. I get lots of questions and lots of attention from the kids.  Then it’s off to one of our many activities. For the girls, it has been cross country, track, dance and cheerleading.  I know all the cheers! For my son R.J.; football, soccer, tae, kwon do, tennis and basketball are his favorites. I’ve even done some assistant coaching to help out. 

Contrary to what many believe his demeanor may have been on the field, Rose says of Russell, “He is both gentle and kind. He’s patient with the kids and has a tender way. I got lucky and couldn’t have picked a better father for my children.” Together he and Rose share strong family values and during my visits it was easy to see what a warm and welcoming home they have created. From Super Bowl Champion to Super Dad, Russell Maryland passionately takes it all in with a smile as big as Cowboys Stadium