Born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Twan Russell is truly a hometown hero. He was born at Broward General Hospital in Plantation, attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School and played football at the illustrious University of Miami.
After college, the Washington Redskins selected Russell in the 1997 NFL Draft. During his NFL career, Russell played the linebacker position for the Redskins, the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons.
In 1999, while still playing in the NFL, Russell and his mother, Corliss Ann Russell, began The Russell Life Skills and Reading Foundation, Inc. The Foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that was formed to “tackle” the high illiteracy rate of inner city youth and the lack of educational resources available to them. The organization serves 400 children in Miami-Dade and Broward counties annually.
Russell currently serves as Director of the Miami Dolphins’ Youth and Community Programs. He makes his home in Plantation, with his wife, Lysandra, and their two children.
1. Going back to when you first started with your organization to now, what has been your proudest personal accomplishment?
Having the opportunity to see the vision that my mother and I shared come to fruition has been my proudest accomplishment so far. The foundation currently operates 6 centers in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties and we will be opening a new center with the Jason Taylor Foundation on August 27th.
2. Do you have a mentor; someone who has been there to guide you or consult with you when you needed their input?
I have several mentors and guides for different facets of my life. The Bible says that a wise man has many counselors, so I am not prideful when it comes to seeking guidance. I lean on many of our board members whose strengths supplement my weaknesses and vice versa...it is this formula that makes the foundation so successful.
3. What is your greatest challenge at this time?
My greatest challenge at this time is keeping up with the foundation’s growing expenses. While we have a streamlined budget, we are also expanding our reach each year, helping more and more children. Although our cause is a worthy one, it is still difficult to find the funding to provide the quality services that are our trademark.
4. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I will be perfectly happy when I die and go to Heaven to live with the Lord forever.
5. What can make you laugh?
Just about anything can make me laugh! I am a lighthearted, jovial person, so I try to take life’s journey as it comes and find the humor in it as much as possible.
6. What do you still hope to accomplish?
I hope to accomplish our original goal of having 30 learning centers, touching the lives of thousands of children. Eventually, I hope that the foundation is so successful that we put ourselves out of business and there is no longer a need for organizations like ours.
7. What do you think is the biggest problem we are facing in this country today?
If you watch the news and read the papers, all you see and hear is that we’ve lost this generation of children. More money is being invested in prisons than in education because society has abandoned them. I believe that we should not turn away from our role in creating this situation. We have allowed the children to go astray by leaving family values on the back burner, in favor of materialism and self-righteousness. We must work to stay connected to our children and to do whatever we can to reach those who need guidance to get their lives on track. We must also let our children see our struggles, so that they don’t take things for granted.
10. What three things are always in your refrigerator?
Vanilla ice cream, fish and chicken are always in my refrigerator.
11. What is your greatest weakness?
Not being able to say no to someone in need. I would love to help everyone, but there isn’t enough time to do it all, so I over-commit myself sometimes.
12. What are you most disciplined about?
I am most disciplined about whom I stand for…Jesus Christ. I am also committed to my family and to being the man I am supposed to be at home.
13. What is something you have learned from a pet?
I learned that if I don’t teach my dog how to behave, it is my fault if he misbehaves. The same can be said for many other things in life. If you don’t groom and develop them, they are bound to go astray.
14. How do you relax?
I really don’t. To me, relaxing is boring. I have to be doing something!