When Anthony Russo moved to the state of Washington from Massachesetts in fifth grade, all he ever heard about was one college.
“It was all Huskies, Huskies, Huskies,” the freshman receiver said. “Ever since then, I always knew that I wanted to come here.”
Russo got that chance last winter, as former head coach Rick Neuheisel extended a scholarship offer to the Lakes High star.
“They recruited me as an athlete,” Russo explains.
There was some uncertainty as to where the 5-foot-11 speedster would play once he put on the purple and gold uniform. That question was settled on the first day of fall camp, when Russo joined five other true freshman at receiver.
The new position, while unfamiliar, is one that he’s enjoyed so far.
Head Coach Keith Gilbertson has already mentioned Russo several times as a freshman who’s impressed.
“Anthony Russo, for a guy who was a high school tailback, gets a little better every practice,” Gilbertson said on Sunday.
Russo knows the competition for playing time will be fierce this fall. Several slots will be open with six freshmen and one redshirt-freshman, Jordan Slye, vying for the positions.
Those who won’t play this year will have to redshirt, spend the season on the scout team, and be unable to play in games. That’s a possibility Russo would love to avoid if all possible.
“I don’t know if I could sit out a whole season and not play after practicing with these guys for a whole year,” said Russo. “I definitely want to play.”
For now, the focus becomes learning the offense and improving on route running. As a tailback at Lakes - the same school that produced Reggie Williams, Aaron Butler, Felix Sweetman and Matt Griffith - he never had had to worry about that. As a receiver, it’s as important as any other facet of the position.
“I was a running back my whole life, so I still need to improve on my route running,” he said.
Pushing him to learn at a rapid pace are the other young faces fighting for the same job. Every other receiver in camp looks capable. Which end up on the traveling squad will come down to which can consistently be the most dependable.
“It’s definitely in the back of your mind,” said Russo of the tight competition. “If you make a bad play, you know that you have to come back and make a big play the next time so (the coaches) will erase that mistake from their memory.”
Wearing the No. 23, this 18-year-old is anxious to see how the coming weeks play out.
All he can control is how hard he works. The final decision for playing time will be up to the coaching staff.
“I need to keep working hard and make big plays,” he said. “If I keep working hard, big plays should follow.”