If you are a college football fan, I highly recommend visiting the Saturday Down South website. It has interesting stories on all the Southeastern Conference squads.

While perusing the pages last week, I came across a section titled “Living Legends: Where are they now?” When I glanced at the image, it was none other than Mobile’s own JaMarcus Russell.

After a storied career at Williamson High School, Russell earned All-SEC and Sugar Bowl MVP honors while leading LSU to a conference championship. Then the Oakland Raiders selected him with the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2007.

JaMarcus Russell had a short NFL career after immense success at William High School and Louisiana State University.

JaMarcus Russell had a short NFL career after immense success at Williamson High School and Louisiana State University.

However, matters quickly began to spiral downward. In 31 NFL games, Russell threw 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. After approaching a reported 300 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame, he was released by the team. Despite losing 50 pounds while working out with former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia and securing tryouts with a few teams, Russell has never earned a spot on another NFL roster.

Russell, though, has not disappeared. He can be found in the latest Dish satellite TV advertisements. The first episode of this series starred former college greats Matt Leinart, Heath Shuler and Brian “The Boz” Bosworth reminiscing about going back to college while in a diner.

The newest spot features the same roster, along with Russell. They are grilling out, while watching their favorite sport in the backyard with the Dish Anywhere app.

Russell brings his “famous tater skins” to the party. An actor and the Dish kangaroo mascot “Hopper” react at the arrival. “Whoa, J-Rock. That’s JaMarcus Russell, be cool,” the actor says. Hopper responds, “Yeah, I know. I’m calm.” Russell ends the segment while watching the game by saying, “College, baby. That’s more like it.”

Dish has continued the theme, with Russell boasting about his potato skins (which The Boz certainly appears to enjoy) on another video. You can even get his recipe by visiting www.JamarcusRussellFamousTaterSkins.com. Both of Russell’s commercials can be found on YouTube.

Russell is not quite ready to give up football for an acting career. He still has a dream of putting on the shoulders pads.

“People are always saying that I’m a bust,” he said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. “I want to show them I’m not. I’m committed to this now.”

Regardless if he does ever play football again, I definitely do want to try his recipe for potato skins. They look great.

New skipper in town

The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced that Robby Hammock will be the next manager for the Mobile BayBears, their Class AA farm club. Andy Green, who won back-to-back Southern League Manager of the Year honors with Mobile, has been promoted to be the major league club’s third base coach.

Last season, Hammock led the Visalia Rawhide to a 75-65 record and a wild card berth into the California League playoffs. Visalia, a Class A-Advanced club, fell just one victory shy of capturing the championship.

Also new to the BayBears staff is hitting coach Jason Camilli, who served in the same role in Visalia with Hammock. Returning as the BayBears’ pitching coach for a second season is Wellington Cepeda.

Hammock started his coaching career in 2012. He had played for the Diamondbacks from 2003 through 2011, hitting .254 with 30 doubles and 12 home runs. On May 18, 2004, he caught Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson’s perfect game against the Atlanta Braves.

The BayBears’ season begins on the road April 9, with a five-game series against the Birmingham Barons. Mobile returns to The Hank on April 15 to face its new Gulf Coast rival, the Biloxi Shuckers (formerly the Huntsville Stars). For ticket information, call 251-479-BEAR (2327) or visit www.MobileBayBears.com.

Start your engines

Thomas “Moose” Praytor of Mobile had an impressive season in the recent ARCA racing circuit, having finished seventh in the drivers’ standings. The next goal for his Max Force Race Team is to be the first full-time ARCA group based out of the Port City.

Praytor has been paired with Wayne Hixson Motorsports the last two years. His team has now acquired owner’s points from Cunningham Motorsports, and will be changing the car number from 2 to 9.

“This is a huge opportunity for our race team,” Praytor said.

He will continue to drive the DK-LOK Ford powered by Roush Yates engines. “We take a great deal of pride in being from Mobile,” Praytor said, “and having an international firm based in Mobile — like DK-LOK (fittings and valves) — be part of our race team means a lot to us.”

The Max Force Race Team is entering its 18th year of competition, which began with a single car at Mobile International Speedway.
Praytor’s next turn on the track will be Friday, Jan. 16, with testing at Daytona International Speedway for the 52nd annual Lucas Oil 200. The team is also preparing for the Mobile 200 on Saturday, March 14.

Olympic icon, USSA honoree passes away

Dr. Zhenliang He, known as “Mr. Olympics” in his home country of China, passed away earlier this month at 85. A former president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, he played a key role in securing the 2008 games for Beijing.

He was well known at the U.S. Sports Academy in Daphne, after having served with its president ­­— ­­Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich ­­— on the International Olympic Committee’s Commission for Culture and Olympic Education. For his efforts, he was presented with an honorary doctorate from the USSA.

The academy also presents the Dr. Zhenliang He Culture Award for the Sports Artist of the Year. This is given annually to an artist who “captures the spirit and life of sport.”
“He was a fervent leader who passionately contributed to sport and the culture of sport as we know it today,” Rosandich said. “The world has lost one of its greatest advocates and he will be greatly missed.”