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So he's a casual football fan. He follows former LSU teammates now in the league. He loves Peyton Manning but worries about him. ("I can't tell a man what to do, and I know he loves the game," says Russell, "but he takes a hit and his neck could be f----- up for good. I'd hate that.") He's a fan of Aaron Rodgers and of the nearby Saints. He likes Drew Brees (though Russell says he throws off his back foot too much) and Calvin Johnson. Does he follow the Raiders? "No. They took a lot out of me."
As Black Sheep finishes his handiwork, Russell ponders his future. "Right now I'm enjoying being me. I'm in a good place. Sometimes being a professional athlete, you feel like you can't live. You're under a microscope. Anything you do is on Twitter, Facebook—"
"They call that paparazzi!" someone interjects.
Russell ignores this one. "I'm a human being first. So now, I'm at peace."
The gallery cheers.
But he is also incomplete. "There's a part of me that wants to play football till I can't walk," Russell says, his voice going slack. "I miss it, yeah."
He recently discussed that feeling with his uncle Albert. "I know you still love football," Albert said. "But do you respect the game?"
"More than I respect life," said JaMarcus.
"Well," said Albert, "what are you gonna do about that? It's not going to fall into your lap. You need to prove yourself to the people who saw you implode. How are you going to rectify that?"
As for getting back, it's a bit of a Hail Mary. "He's only 26, and we all know the NFL's appetite for quarterbacks," says Lombardi, "but he needs to play, to go to Canada and show he can win, show his skills. He needs to take responsibility, say, 'I [messed] up, and I'm interested in returning.' If he wants to come back, it's crazy he hasn't done that."