December 6, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Leonard Russell, 1991

Running Back, New England Patriots

Age: 22 (Nov. 17)
College: Arizona State
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 235

The Patriots took Russell in the first round of the 1991 NFL draft (14th overall) as new Head Coach Dick MacPherson was looking to upgrade the running game. He was highly touted by scouts coming out of college and proved to have an ideal combination of size and speed, although he also was prone to fumble.

1991 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 266 [5]
Most attempts, game - 27 (for 106 yds.) at Buffalo 11/3
Yards – 959 [8]
Most yards, game – 112 yards (on 26 carries) at NY Jets 12/15
Average gain – 3.6
TDs – 4
100-yard rushing games – 2

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 18      
Most receptions, game – 3 (for 10 yds.) at NY Jets 12/15
Yards – 81
Most yards, game - 18 (on 1 catch) at Pittsburgh 9/15
Average gain – 4.5
TDs – 0

TDs – 4
Points – 24

Awards & Honors:
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA

Patriots went 6-10 to finish fourth in the AFC East.

Russell suffered through an injury-plagued 1992 season, rushing for just 390 yards. He bounced back with 1088 yards in ’93 but averaged 3.6 yards per carry and lacked consistency. Russell moved on to the Denver Broncos in 1994 where he led the team with 620 rushing yards and caught a career-high 38 passes before a neck injury sidelined him late in the season. After a year as a backup with the Rams, he finished up in San Diego in 1996. Overall, over six seasons Russell rushed for 3973 yards on 1164 carries (3.4 avg.) and had 122 pass receptions for 846 yards, scoring a total of 29 TDs. 


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 


  1. I remember Russell. I don't think he had that much speed. As a Denver fan, I remember them having him, but they let him go to the Rams. They still had Rod Bernstine, and they had a young back by the name of Terrell Davis.

    I am not sure if he should have been drafted ahead of Harvey Williams, who the Pats should have taken. He was taken by KC in a redundant move (they had Word and Okoye. They should have listened to Mel Kiper and taken Favre. No wonder why they didn't get to a Super Bowl).

  2. As much as many scouts thought he was an outstanding all-around talent, he never had a high average gain per carry average and, with the Patriots, didn't catch many passes. I am suspecting that the injuries really robbed him of his speed.