Young Falcons RBs Trying to Earn Attention

Young Falcons RBs Trying to Earn Attention

Jay Adams

Published August 5, 2013 at 6:20 PM

The Kia Motors Friday Night Lights crowd in Gainesville, Ga., a few days ago, may have turned to one other and asked, “Who’s that wearing No. 33?”

The body filling out the number worn for five years by Michael Turner is hardly reminiscent of the hard-nosed, bruising running back, and the playing style of the current owner of the number isn’t familiar either.

Just down the road a bit, Donald Russell suited up at running back for a young Georgia State program after transferring there from Kentucky and joins the Falcons as a much different type of 33 than Falcons fans might be used to.

Taking a less publicized path to the NFL, as many players do, Russell is an undrafted rookie who latched on with the Falcons after the draft. A few plays into the Friday Night Lights scrimmage and it was pretty evident why he caught the team’s attention.

Speed and quickness.

A couple of handoffs and a screen play that saw the young running back go streaking down the sideline for a big gain caught the attention of the 14,000-plus crowd in Gainesville on Friday night, and Russell hopes it caught the eyes of the Falcons coaching staff, too.

“Coming off Friday Night Lights, you just want to maximize every opportunity,” said Russell, who rushed for 1,412 yards with 12 touchdowns at Georgia State, after Monday’s combined practice with the Cincinnati Bengals. “It’s a dream come true, and for me to be in the preseason with the Atlanta Falcons is even better.”

Former Arkansas running back Ronnie Wingo is also looking to make his NFL fantasy a reality and had a strong performance in the Friday night scrimmage, as well. A bit bigger than the 5-foot-11 Russell at 6-3, Wingo also has speed to spare and flashed it a bit in live competition against his teammates.

With veteran backup Antone Smith sidelined with an injury during 2013 Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Russell and Wingo have an opportunity to get a few extra reps here and there.

But it’ll take much more than a few strong runs to unseat Smith, a valuable special teamer during the past few seasons. Russell and Wingo have to earn attention from the coaching staff on special teams to have a chance at cracking the 53-man roster, and that’s where the focus is for both running backs.

“It’s always different coming to the NFL. I did (special teams) in college, but we did stuff different than what it is here,” Wingo said. “It’s just learning everything and learning the different techniques and the different terminology. It’s not the same way you did it in college. It’s an on-going process and I’m looking forward to it.”

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