Thursday, December 15, 2005

Darrell Russell

Generally when a news story is said to hit close to home, it's just a figure of speech. Not this one, though; former NFL and USC defensive lineman Darrell Russell, whose path crossed with mine a couple of times during my stay at Southern Cal, was killed in a car wreck early this morning on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, about five or six blocks from my apartment. I heard the helicopters all morning.

I saw Darrell Russell my freshman year during Cinema 466, a class that featured screenings of new (often not-yet-released) films and subsequent interviews with the films' stars and/or writers and/or producers. TAs would collect USC IDs before class so people couldn't leave after the film and skip the Q&A period, and they'd pass the IDs back at the end of class. Once, Darrell Russell's name was called while I was waiting for my ID, and, really, those of us who don't spend time around professional athletes just have no idea how enormous they are in person. He was huge.

The next year, when I was with the USC marching band (the best marching band in the world, and don't let anyone tell you any different), we went up to the Bay Area for the USC/Cal game. Russell, at that point an Oakland Raider, spoke at an event at which the band also played. He seemed like a good guy.

Apparently Russell wasn't able to overcome his addictions (the reason he's a former NFL lineman appears to be his inability to stay away from drugs) or his associations with unsavory characters from his past, and that led to his being killed in a reckless, avoidable accident.

I didn't know Darrell Russell, but, like I said, my limited firsthand experience leads me to believe that he was a good guy at heart. My limited firsthand experience with reckless driving and substance abuse leads me to feel sad for Russell, not just mad at him.

Believe me, people. I'm not here to preach, but, please don't mess around when you drive. It's not worth it. Even if you don't die, and even if you don't get pulled over and have to spend the night in a jail cell in Glendale, it's still not worth it.

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