Tristen Russell picked up a new hobby prior to his junior year.
It started with a pair of red and black Thunder 4s. Then came a pair of Jordans 4s, some Concords, some Cool Greys, some Dunks. Thanks to his grandma and a couple of trades, Russell’s sneaker collection is going strong.
“Once it started, I knew I needed to add on,” he said. “You know grandmas, they’ll do anything for their babies. So, she got me that first pair and after working out some deals, it’s off to a nice start.”
Mustang’s senior quarterback has plans to not only stack shoes this season, but to also add to his most cherished collection – wins.
Russell’s first opportunity comes tonight as the Broncos open the 2022 season against the Southmoore Sabercats at Moore Schools Stadium. His confidence is higher than ever after leading the Broncos to the Class 6A-1 semifinals last year. And he’s ready to lead the team’s attack for a third season.
“Coming into this year, things have started to become easier and more clear,” he said, discussing the improvements he feels he made during the offseason. “My sophomore year, I wasn’t very good with reads and with my feet. I couldn’t read a coverage and was indecisive.”
“I feel like now I can see the little details better, like recognizing coverages and pre-snap reads. I can see man or zone and some of the things I couldn’t see two years ago. It helps a lot. My ball placement and feet have gotten better too.”
Russell saw his first varsity action in Week 2 of the 2020 season against Stillwater. The following week, he led the Broncos to a comeback win over Norman and hasn’t looked back. Last season, he passed for over 2,600 yards with 29 touchdowns and just six interceptions while helping lead Mustang to the semifinals for the seventh time in school history.
With another year of experience under his belt and a fantastic offseason according to his coach, Russell now has the offense firmly grasped. He knows where everything starts – physical and fast.
“The attack comes from us moving quick,” he said. “We play with a lot of speed and high IQ. It’s a very smart offense. This preseason I’ve been seeing everything fall together. I can peek at the defense and already know what they’re running. That’s how we gas teams, by getting to the line, making the read, and go.”
Mustang coach Lee Blankenship knows the team’s offense is in safe hands with Russell and how much of an asset they have at quarterback.
“He’s a stud,” Blankenship said. “He has the strongest arm I’ve ever coached, he’s extremely efficient, and you have to account for his legs, too. Everybody knows we can win with him out there. He’s an unquestioned captain.”
Blankenship sees Russell’s intensity and passion and is reminded of a former University of Oklahoma quarterback.
“He plays like Baker Mayfield with a chip on his shoulder and the super strong arm. It’s nothing to see one of our guys break off a touchdown run and see Tristen running down the sidelines with his hand in the air, cheering him on. He’s a lot of fun to coach and watch play.”
Mustang senior Rylan Lerma, the team’s lone returning starter at offensive line, understands exactly what the team has in Russell.
“He’s a fantastic leader and a great player,” Lerma said. “He can make all the throws and he has a crazy ability to get out of the pocket and make things happen. We met in seventh grade, and I heard he was solid, but hadn’t played together. That’s when I realized he’s a playmaker.”
Russell has lofty expectations for himself and for the team.
He wants to eclipse the 2,600 yards from 2021 and reach 3,000. He wants to reach 35 touchdown passes as well. But more than anything, he’s looking to make additions to his collection of Ws.
“I want to help lead these guys to more wins and reach the state championship game,” he said. “We talk a lot about playing to a championship standard at Mustang and for me that’s what we need to do after losing in the quarters and then last year in the semis.
“We’re ready to take the next step. We have every tool it takes.”