Staying Positive

Shoulder Injury Forces FCS Graduate Mason Russell to Retire from Football

This story has some good and bad news. But Mason Russell is focused on the positive side to the story.

Russell made his collegiate football debut on the field for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga team this past fall, but also suffered a career-ending shoulder injury during his sophomore campaign.

"I played on special teams this fall," Russell said. "My most memorable moment was in Knoxville. It was the first game I dressed out for and it was against the University of Tennessee. It was like little big brother versus little brother. I had a good career at UTC. I started on offensive line, moved to defensive line and back to the OL and also played special teams. I always worked hard and wanted to see where they could put me and be the best I could be."

Russell, who graduated from FCS in 2018, played through nagging shoulder injuries throughout his high school and collegiate career. Unfortunately, after 5-6 weeks of playing through pain and blocking 300-pound defensive linemen every game, the shoulder gave out one practice last fall.

"That was it for me for the season," he said. "My shoulder went out. The injury flared up. My labrum was torn. Basically my rotator cuff was non-existent and then arthritis had set in. That was a bad injury."

Russell faced two surgeries and 2½ years of rehabilitation for a chance to play for the Mocs again. He decided to call it quits for his football career after two years with the UTC program.

"It was very emotional when I went in to see Coach [Rusty] Wright," Russell said. "I was pacing outside the coaches offices before I went in to tell him I had to stop playing football. It was very tough to tell him. But he was very positive. He said 'you have a great major, and you will be ok.' He thanked me for what I did for the program. Coach Wright's words meant a lot."

Russell, whose shoulder will still randomly pop out, will still need shoulder surgery to repair damage and have a normal life, but now at least he can schedule it on his own timetable. He also won't face more than two years of rehabilitation for a shot at playing football again for the Mocs as a senior in the fall of 2022.

"The doctor said for a normal life you'll still need surgery," he said. "I want to be able to play catch when I have kids someday."

As Russell processes his tough decision about retirement from the game he loves, his attitude remains positive.

"The experience playing football at UTC has been more than I expected," Russell said. "God has a plan for me. I know that."

The mechanical engineering major leads a Bible study for college students at Chattanooga's Brainerd Baptist Church, volunteers for a special needs program at a local middle school, helped build the latter group an adaptive special needs basketball goal and contemplates which concentration he'll pick in mechanical engineering. Russell's choices are either aerospace or bio medical.

Russell, who spent the summer working at an Atlanta-area golf course, has two more academic years left at the Chattanooga, Tenn., school.

During his FCS career, Russell was a two-time All-Region player and was twice named to the North Georgia Touchdown Club Player of the Week. He was a member of the 2016 team that reached the GHSA Class A Private School Football Championships title contest.

(Logo Courtesy of UTC, FCS file photo)