Former Bear John Russ gets his coaching chance

Mercer QB John Russ talks to his offensive coordinator during the Bears' win over Western Carolina at home last season. /(Luke Hetrick, WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- The last time we saw John Russ at Five Star Stadium as a player, he was leading Mercer to a 27-24 win over Furman on senior day.

"My arm feels retired. I ain't gonna lie," said Russ Tuesday. "I just threw the ball 54 yards and that is awful compared to what I used to do when I was playing . I definitely feel retired."

Now Russ returns to Macon, not to play, but to coach.

"It's a little weird but it still hasn't hit me yet honestly," said Russ. "I still feel like I'm around football and I'm still about to play in August. But it just hasn't hit me yet."

The former quarterback is now a graduate assistant on the Georgia State defensive staff, giving him knowledge of the other side of the ball.

"I need to learn (defense)," said Russ. "I know offense being a quarterback but I need to learn the technique on defense to make me a better coach on both sides of the ball."

Russ always had dreams of becoming a football coach, but after his playing days were done, Mercer's all-time leading passer was working for Kroger waiting for a coaching job to open up.

"I was filling milk, filling yogurt, filling juice, filling butter and biscuits and eggs," said Russ. "I was making some money while I was sitting at home. The opportunity comes you can either make zero or make some money so I'm making some money."

Russ' long-awaited opportunity came this spring when Georgia State came calling.

"It is the greatest feeling in the world," said Russ. "I was going to my little niece's field day at her elementary school in Gwinnett and I got a phone call from coach Elliott and I was ecstatic. My parents were there and I was like man this is a dream come true."

As his former head coach knows, a graduate assistant job is exactly what Russ needs to get his foot in the door.

"It's very rewarding for guys like John Russ who wants to go into coaching," said Bobby Lamb. "Being a graduate assistant is the first step to trying to get into college football."

Russ and Georgia State begin their 2017 season on August 31 when they host Tennessee State.

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