Senior B.J. Russow perseveres through 5 years of changes

Lions senior defensive end B.J. Russow (foreground) has played for five head coaches at Missouri Southern and has made the switch from inside linebacker to defensive end.

Julie Lybarger

Lions’ senior defensive end B.J. Russow (foreground) has played for five head coaches at Missouri Southern and has made the switch from inside linebacker to defensive end.

Kelly Davis

B.J. Russow is someone who does not like change.

“I’m probably not the best at it,” Russow said.

This is ironic, given the last five years of his life have been full of change. As a football player for Missouri Southern, Russow has had five head coaches. He’s moved four times. He’s even played two different positions.

However, change seems to favor Russow, as he’s adapted to all of the changes that have come his way.

Now a senior, Russow began his career as a Lion football player under head coach Bill Cooke. Since Cooke, the position of head coach has been filled by Rob Green, the late John Ware, Keeth Matheny, and most recently, Bart Tatum.

Having so many coaches in such a short amount of time has been an adjustment not just for Russow, but the entire team.

“People are pretty bummed about it at first, just because you grow that bond for so long,” Russow said. “Also, college is a big time of change anyway, and I think a lot of people are resistant to change. I know I was.”

Russow added, “You get used to the way some people coach, and then it’s kind of like you have to start over fresh every year and learn a new system and new defense.”

However, for Russow, the hardest part was when the entire coaching staff changed, not just the head coach.

“You do have a certain relationship with them [the head coaches], but the biggest thing was the staff, because the closest relationship you’re going to have is with your position coach and your defensive coordinator, which is how it is with me now,” Russow said, referring to Lions’ defensive coordinator Daryl Daye.

Russow said the coaching staff stayed the same for the first three seasons he was on the team. When Tatum took over in the fall of 2006, though, the rest of the staff changed, too.

“When our new coaching staff came in, I wasn’t too excited about it, because I had these bonds and these relationships I had built with the old coaches. Then these new guys were coming in that I didn’t know, and I didn’t really like it very much. I was kind of resistant myself. But it was definitely for the best.”

One of the hardest blows to the team came in the fall of 2005, when coach John Ware passed away during the football season.

Russow said of all the coaches he’s been around, he had never seen a “player’s coach” like Ware. Aside from being a football coach, Russow remembers Ware as being a compassionate man, someone who truly cared about his players.

“It was evident,” Russow said. “You could tell how much he cared about the guys he coached. Beyond football, there were a lot of us who played for him that would go in and talk to him all the time. You always saw guys in his office, because he would talk to people about life, about tons of different things.”

Russow said Ware was even known to hand out stock market tips.

“He was a genius when it came to stuff like that,” Russow said. “He was a very intelligent man.”

Changes in coaching staff aren’t the only changes on the team that have affected Russow. Recruited as an inside linebacker, Russow now plays the position of defensive end. This is fine with him, because it’s what he’s used to.

“I played the majority of my life as a defensive end, it’s my natural position,” Russow said.

Russow has also moved four times. After growing up in Seneca, Russow moved out of his parents’ house and lived with his older brother during his freshman year. When his brother moved for work, though, Russow moved into the residence halls and lived there as a sophomore. From there he moved off-campus with a roommate who was not an athlete, and now he lives with a roommate who is.

“It’s always easier living with athletes, because you have to share the responsibility of waking up and motivating yourself,” Russow said. “It’s a lot easier when other people have to do it with you than doing it alone.”

One of a handful of seniors to play for Missouri Southern throughout their entire college career, Russow said he never considered going anywhere else to play football, even though he could have.

“I had other opportunities if I had wanted to [play elsewhere],” Russow said. “But I love this team. I’ve never quit anything in my life and I just didn’t want to start now.”

That is a change Russow is glad he decided not to make.

“Ultimately, I decided to give the new coaching staff a chance, and I’m definitely glad I did, because I don’t think I would have been happy if I went anywhere else.”

A large part of Missouri Southern’s appeal to Russow is that his family is close enough to see him play.

“It’s really nice, because the majority of my family lives here,” said Russow. “That was really important to me because I love football, but at the same time, one of the most important things to me is that I get to share it with my family.”

Russow says his family definitely shows its support at the football games.

“I’ve got a pretty loving family. I’m very proud of that. We’re given four tickets, but generally I have to ask two or three other guys [for their extra tickets]. I usually have about 10-15 people coming, so I get a lot of support from my family.”

Throughout all of the changes Russow has seen in the last five years, though, he has come to recognize that many were for the best, even if he didn’t think so at the time.

“At the time, it seemed like a terrible thing, and I love those coaches [from the previous staff],” Russow said. “But don’t get me wrong. I think right now we have one of the best coaching staffs in the nation. I honestly believe that. We were blessed with some really good coaches, so I feel very fortunate about that.”

And the changes in Russow’s life won’t be ending anytime soon. A business management major, Russow will graduate in May 2008, and will move in search of a job. Russow said he would like to live in the Kansas City area.

“I love it up there,” he said. He also has several good friends in the area, and is a fan of both the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs.

“I’m going to move where the work force is,” Russow said. “It’s really hard to get a job around here. This area’s flooded with business majors, so I’ve got to go somewhere where I have a little more opportunity.”

As far as opportunities go, Russow ultimately thinks the decision to bring in a new coaching staff will provide the Lions’ football team with better opportunities in the future.

“I think us getting coach Tatum as the head coach is probably one of the better moves that they’ve made in this school, even if they didn’t realize it at the time,” he said. “I didn’t realize it at the time. But I tell you, I think he’s going to do amazing things for this program. I think we’re really fortunate to have him here. Him and coach Daye.”