Former Lakewood star Chapelle Russell selected in 2020 NFL Draft
Temple linebacker and former Lakewood star Chapelle Russell was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the seventh round (241 overall) of the 2020 National Football League Draft on Saturday evening.
Russell, who went by Chapelle Cook while he was in high school before taking his late father's last name, played 45 games over a four-year career with the Owls, totaling 237 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. This past season, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound redshirt senior recorded 72 tackles (47 solo) with nine tackles for loss and three pass breakups.
He battled back from ACL injuries during his freshman and sophomores years and was named Temple's Male Comeback Player of the Year in 2018. He was also awarded a coveted single-digit jersey number heading into the 2018 season, which Temple gives to its nine toughest players in the team.
"Chapelle was the second in charge for our team this year with Shaun [Bradley]," Temple head coach Rod Carey told Owlsports.com. "Another great leader. Sound, sound football player that just continuously did his job. I know that the Buccaneers will enjoy that as much as we enjoyed it."
At Lakewood, Russell played quarterback, running back and linebacker. As a senior, Russell ran for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns and threw for 849 yards and five touchdowns to lead a resurgent Piners program to a second straight NJSIAA playoff berth. At linebacker, he had 51 tackles, 8 pass breakups, 6 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries and 3 forced fumbles. Temple offered Russell during his sophomore year of high school and in August following his senior year he verbally committed to Temple.
"He is everything we speak about in our program," said Lakewood head coach LJ Clark. "He is a prime example of showing kids in Lakewood, in inner cities, to not look for excuses. His father died, he was homeless and he tore his ACL twice. Not only was he drafted but he graduated from Temple in three years. If you're motivated, you can do it. He is such a good kid off the field and that's just as important."
Clark and Russell have been close since Russell began living with Clark's parents, Larry and Barbara, when he was a junior in high school. Russell's mother was in the Navy at the time and was being relocated. Russell was having success both academically and athletically and didn't want to leave Lakewood. Together, they figured out a way to keep him home.
"I can't thank my parents enough," Clark said.
Russell was in the Clarks' Lakewood home on Saturday evening when he got the call from Tampa Bay. Clark said they had heard from the Colts, Cowboys, 49ers and Rams during the draft.
"The Colts had back-to-back picks in the sixth round and we thought he could go there," Clark said. "When he didn't I got a little nervous, but Chapelle was super calm the whole time."
Then, Russell finally got the call he had been anticipating.
(Video courtesy of LJ Clark)
After speaking with Russell, the next call Clark got was from Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, who coached Russell at Temple before heading to Baylor and then to the NFL
"He's such a good dude," Clark said of Rhule.
Russell was part of a record draft for Temple, which had four players selected for the first time in program history. The Owls have had multiple players drafted in five straight seasons and are the only Group of Five school to do so.
Russell joins a Tampa Bay roster that has Super Bowl aspirations after the high-profile free agent signing of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and a trade for superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join his former New England Patriots teammate in Tampa.
"I'm still in awe," Clark said. "This is what you coach for. Everybody wants wins and championships but when yo9u see a kid's dream come true, there's nothing like it."
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