Here in the city of Ottawa we are lucky to have a lot of talent. Talent across the board, offense, defense, special teams, quarterbacks to safeties wherever on the field, the city has some studs and out of all the positions on the field, I personally believe the linebacking core, from all the defensive positions is the most talented. The names may not all be division one and flashy right now, but matching their talent today with their potential as well as what they’ve achieved so far in their careers, it’s exciting and these are some big time players. Among the list of linebackers that we do have in the city of Ottawa, a player that has proven himself at all of the levels he has played at is Maleek Russell.
Though Russell isn’t originally from Ottawa, and actually started playing football in Oshawa with a local youth team, the Oshawa Hawkeyes, he lives in the city now and has played in Ottawa recently with the St Matthews Tigers at the High School level. His time with St Matthews is by far the main reason to put him in the talks as one of the best linebackers in the city and I’m confident that his youth football career in Oshawa has a part in his current success. The time he spent with the Oshawa Hawkeyes and Donald A Wilson High School in Durham got him started in football, he got to know all of the main fundamentals and basics early in his life and watching him now, even after his shortened season this past year with Kiski School in Pennsylvania you can tell that he knows what he is doing. “He has been playing football for a while.” said Christophe Mulamba, a CFL linebacker and founder of Linebacker Prototype as he looked at Russell’s film, “You can tell that he has been taught all of the fundamentals and he has been coached well enough to do all of the right things at the position but he also does a good job of using his own style of play.” As he talks about getting Maleek on his team at St Matthews Coach Jean Guillaume adds to the conversation, “When he came you could tell he already played for a couple seasons and he was very coachable as well for what he didn’t know. He became a great player for us early and I was happy he was here (at St Matthews).”
Having known the fundamentals, for Russell it was an easy transition to the high school level in Ottawa and it showed a lot from looking at the success he had at St Matthews as well as the success he had earlier in Oshawa. He was built to play at a high level, winning defensive MVP on 3 teams he’s been on, winning one Most Outstanding Linebacker and two Special Teams MVPs over his football career. The awards show how he can help a defense and the team overall be in a position to win games and luckily for him and the rest of the St Matthews Tigers team, the whole team had their own attributes to add to Maleek’s and as a team they were able to win a championship in 2018, Maleek Russell’s first year in Ottawa.
Winning a championship and winning the awards he won through his early football career both at the youth level and the high school level he was able to in a sense have a headstart to the career he wants to have. Growing up playing football, the goal is to play in the NFL and to accomplish just that you have to have early success and a vision for where you want to go. As for Maleek Russell, the success was already there and according to his high school coach Jean Guillaume he has a vision as well and that vision was clear, “Just coaching him you could tell he wanted to do big things and he does everything so that he can do just that. He works hard, he is a great student in the classroom and he stays out of trouble, As a coach it was great to have him on the team to have that mentality around and leadership.” Having that mentality around was a great thing for the St Matthews Tigers defense and it showed on the field. He made play after play with the Tigers and showed what he was all about, getting some looks his way while doing so as well, “He’s a violent player.” said CFL linebacker Christophe Mulamba, “On film you could tell that he is a down hill runner, and he is always looking for the ball. He plays an old school style of defense at the linebacker position and thats what makes him unique it looks like because not a lot of players are like that anymore and I think with all of that he reminds me of myself a little bit. I play old school linebacker a lot myself and he sticks out to me for that.” A violent, downhill running, old school style of play linebacker who reminds CFL professional linebackers of themselves is exactly what Maleek Russell is and after playing several years in Canada, in Oshawa, Durham and Ottawa he was able to show what he is all about south of the border. Most major success stories from the game of football in Ottawa have a tie with the USA, whether its because they went their on the way to success or thats where they ended up being successful we all have heard the term ‘the land of opportunity’ and it being America, Maleek Russell recently had the opportunity to go to the USA to play football. In a restricted year because of the Covid-19 pandemic we are in he didn’t have the exact experience he had envisioned, though football is football no matter what the situation is.
Russell had the opportunity to go play for Kiski School in Pennsylvania where he went to school for prep school and would play a shortened high school football season. He ended up playing in two good games which he had put on his HUDL for film purposes, and you could tell that his talent isn’t only good in Canada. On film, even when he’s playing with and against top talent he looks like one of the best players on the field every time he’s out there. He is able to make a consistent amount of plays, blitzing the quarterback, stopping the run and going into coverage on the occasion which is all very good to see and there’s no doubt that he should get an opportunity at the next level and with no offers yet and his recruitment 100% open CFL linebacker Christophe Mulamba said, “He has a lot of potential, he is very physical which a lot of people look for at the linebacker position and just seeing what he can do if the right person sees him and he continues to work he can have a big opportunity somewhere.”
A big opportunity is something everyone dreams of from playing football and it is something that Maleek Russell is still striving for and luckily for him he’s got a great support group around him to make something happen. A part of the group is one that’s already talked highly of Maleek and one that knows a lot about recruiting and coaching linebackers from coaching division one players like Indiana’s Kervens Bonhomme, West Virginia’s Akheem Mesidor and many more Coach Jean Guillaume. Guillaume when talking about comparing Russell to a professional linebacker he didn’t fully compare the two but he mentioned, “Maleek and Ray Lewis. They have a lot of the same traits. They are two old school linebackers and the one thing that makes it clear for me is Maleek’s ability to plug the hole and how he is able to sacrifice his body every down.” For Maleek, it makes sense why he may seem like a Ray Lewis style player because he studies film on players who are very similar to Ray Lewis and maybe more advanced because they are from a modern era of football, “I model my game after two players, Jaylon Smith and Patrick Willis. They both are very quick to the ball, playing hard nose football making their presence felt.”
As Maleek Russell continues to hope make his presence felt at the next level, coaches will continue to look over what kind of player he is exactly and he will get better so that when the opportunity does come it will last.