- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
Houston North Shore tight end Jacobie Russell's ability, hard work and talent is what made him a recruitable college football prospect but it's his jersey number that got him first noticed by a certain Division I assistant coach. Eight months later, Russell committed to UNLV, becoming the latest addition to the Rebels' 2013 class.
Russell wasn't originally on UNLV's radar when Rebels receivers coach Cedric Cormier made a trip down to evaluate prospects during North Shore's spring football practice. But because Russell wore the same number Cormier did when he played at North Shore -- No. 14 -- Cormier made a point to keep an eye on the 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end.
He liked what he saw and Russell soon became a target.
"They've been recruiting me, as far as I know, since we started spring football," Russell said. "They came down here and Coach Cormier, he was coming down to look for some [defensive backs] and he spotted me because I had on his number, which is 14. So he gave me a little look and he really liked how I played."
Cormier, a former North Shore High School quarterback, eventually got UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck to attend some of Russell's games and that sold Hauck on the 2013 prospect.
"After the spring, [Cormier] watched me during the season and said that I got so much better at certain things like blocking, running, catching the ball," Russell said. "He brought the head coach to two of our games and I had two really good games. I had some good catches and some nice blocks. He said coach Hauck was impressed with me and he said, 'We have to offer this dude.' "
So the Rebels did. Russell gave UNLV a lot of thought for several reasons. One of them was the fact that a pair of former North Shore teammates -- running back Tim Cornett and receiver Devante Davis -- are currently playing for UNLV. He knows Davis especially well because Russell's older brother is close with Davis.
"I'm real cool and close to [Davis]," Russell said. "He and my older brother are like best friends. It was real good knowing that I have someone who can mentor me and who has been through this the last couple of years. The first couple years of college are the hardest, so I have someone there to mentor me and help me get through it. It was real assuring."
Russell chose the Rebels over offers from Texas State, Prairie View A&M and Southeastern Louisiana. He'll take his official visit on Jan. 18 and feels good about his future.
"What really finalized it for me, is I was sitting at my brothers house with Devante recently and he was just telling me how the program is and how I can fit in," Russell said. "He thinks I can go in there and start. It just depends on my mindset. Mainly we talked about that and I called and talked to Coach Cormier and Coach Hauck that same night and everything that I like is there. I like what they do, the style of play they have and I have someone to help me on and off the field, too."
453dSam Khan Jr. and Max Olson