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Louisville defensive standout’s long road to recovery from severe leg injury nearly complete

By Rocco Gasparro
University of Louisville

University of Louisville safety Russ Yeast is a fighter. The senior was in the midst of having a career year in 2019 before suffering a severe leg injury in the regular-season home finale against Syracuse on Nov. 23.

However, it all came crashing down on one play during Louisville’s 56-34 win over the Orange.

Coming up to make a tackle, the junior was blasted on his lower leg, ending his season immediately and putting his career in doubt. After a few weeks, Yeast had surgery, which required him to perform a taxing six-month rehabilitation process. Yeast is still working hard to get back to where he was prior to the injury.

Russ Yeast

The Greenwood, Ind., product missed winter workouts and the seven spring practices, but the converted cornerback is back with his teammates preparing for the 2020 season. While still not 100 percent, Yeast is working hard and knows he’ll be ready when the Cardinals take the field on Sept. 2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against N.C. State.

“It definitely feels really good to be back with my teammates working out and doing everything with them,” Yeast said. The recovery process has been long and tough. I appreciate everyone who has worked so hard to make sure I’ve been able to get back on the field.”

Preparing for his final season, Yeast is hoping that there even is a season as the country fights the ongoing pandemic. While the season is scheduled to start on time, there is still doubt about what might happen in the next few weeks.

“I think about it every day (about not having a season),” Yeast said. “Just coming back, rehabbing, working hard to get back, and not have a season would be tough. Even coming back to have an altered season would be tough on us. I’m just hoping we have a full season.”

While Yeast was fighting to get back on the field, he did without much support from his teammates. Forced away from campus because of the pandemic, Yeast missed that support he would get from the people around the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex.

Louisville’s Russ Yeast recorded a career-high 61 tackles last year. (UofL photo)

“It was different because when you are on campus you are so used to being around all of your teammates, being in the facility, being able to be encouraged by your guys while you are in there rehabbing and doing all the hard stuff,” Yeast said. “It was difficult just being there by myself. It was me and Matt just trying to prepare for the next season but it was also really good for me because it’s where I made my biggest progress.”

Because of his injury, Yeast wasn’t able to get on the field, but he was able to provide leadership by just having is presence around his teammates. He was like another coach on the field in the spring, and was there to support any player who was coming off the field.

“That’s one thing I can take from this injury, it definitely increased my mental part of the game,” Yeast said. “… It was good I was able to be in that role and lead because it was the closest thing I could get to being on the field at that time.”

In his first season at safety, Yeast recorded a career-high 61 tackles and notched his first interception when he picked off Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in the end zone.

“I still feel like I have so much more to my game that I still haven’t shown and am still working on,” Yeast said. “Being hurt it allows you to be more detail-oriented and think about the little things you weren’t doing previously for it. I feel like I won’t lose a step. I think I’ll be better off.”

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