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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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EIU All-American prepares for NFL Draft

Tyriq Johnson
Russell Dandy, a fifth year defensive back, lines up against a McNeese St cowboys wide receiver at O‘Brien Field Saturday afternoon.

At a young age, the main goal for most kids who play football is to play professionally in the National Football League. 

Eastern’s former defensive back Russell Dandy started playing football when he was 6 years old. As he’s training to turn his dreams of playing in the NFL into a reality, he never thought he would get to where he is now. 

“There’s no shot 6-year-old me would believe this,” Dandy said. 

Dandy graduated from Eastern in May 2023, but because he had an extra year of eligibility, he decided to attend a few classes in the fall semester to play one final season with the Panthers. 

During his final season of college football, Dandy started all 11 games. He ended the season with 34 total tackles, 18 pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one interception. 

“Russ is certainly a great athlete,” Eastern’s head football coach Chris Wilkerson said. “He’s a guy that was a physical guy for a corner[back]. At the NFL level, they’re always looking for corner[back]s or guys that can cover but then also who will be physical enough that they might be able to play in the slot, and they’re also looking for guys who can play on special teams. Russ is a guy that we know can do that.” 

On top of those statistics, Dandy was also named part of the 2023 First Team All-Big South/Ohio Valley Conference as well as being named a 2023 Walter Camp All-American. 

Dandy, a Georgia native, trains back in his home state, and he has been training with his trainer of 10 years, Manny Rodriguez, since the 2023 season came to an end. 

“At first, training was an all-day thing,” Dandy said. 

Before his first NFL pro day, Dandy had a routine he would follow while he was training. Dandy’s day would start at 8 a.m. getting ready for his 10:30 a.m. workout. 

Every day, Dandy would stop by Smoothie King to fuel up before his workout. 

When Dandy first got to the gym, he stretched and warmed up before his trainer told him what they’d be working on that day. 

“My workouts aren’t straight hitting weights,” Dandy said. “It’s really what my trainer thinks I need. We’ll get into the workout, and then after the workout do some type of stretching again.” 

After his workout, Dandy stoped at Playa Bowls, a restaurant that serves açaí bowls and pitaya bowls. 

“I’ll probably get back to the house at about 3 or 4,” Dandy said. 

When Dandy got back home, he’d take a shower before driving to Life Time Fitness to use the amenities the gym offers. 

“I’ll get in the sauna, steam room, and I’ll get in the pool and hot tub,” Dandy said. “It recovers my body and gets me ready for the next day. For the stuff that I need, [Life Time Fitness] is well worth it.” 

Dandy would normally leave Life Time Fitness around 8 p.m. and arrive home around 8:30 p.m. to eat and relax before he went to bed. He would repeat the same routine until his first NFL pro day at Northwestern University on March 6. 

During this pro day, multiple recruiters from different NFL teams watched all of the players perform different events throughout the day. 

Dandy did five events at the pro day at Northwestern: the 40-yard dash (4.48 seconds), the 3-cone drill (6.87 seconds), the 5-10-5 shuttle (4.19 seconds), the vertical jump (39 inches) and the broad jump (10 feet, 7 inches). 

“For me, my performance was more average,” Dandy said. “I had pretty good numbers across the board, but I expect better for myself.” 

Compared to the other defensive backs and cornerbacks at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, Dandy recorded a 40-yard dash time that would have him tied as the 17th best time compared to the 42 other cornerbacks at the 2024 combine. 

Dandy attended another pro day at Georgia Southern University so he could record a faster time in the 40-yard dash. 

“That’s really all I want to do,” Dandy said. “I want to run a 4.3 [second time] so I can get my draft stock up a little bit. My numbers aren’t bad, but I expect more of myself because I know I can do better. If I run a 4.3, I have a good chance to get drafted.” 

Along with the 40-yard dash, Dandy wanted to repeat the vertical event and the broad jump event. Dandy’s goal is to record a distance of 40 inches on the vertical jump and a distance of 11 feet for the broad jump. 

Dandy had his second NFL Pro Day at Georgia Southern University on Monday, March 25. Dandy received his official results in the vertical jump (39.5 inches), the broad jump (11 feet) and the 40-yard dash (4.44 seconds). 

Because Dandy had two pro days, he is currently maintaining his training and stamina instead of following the same routine he had before his Northwestern pro day. 

“It’s the same workouts as before, but I come home around 3, and then I’m just kicking it for the rest of the day,” Dandy said. 

Dandy also wants to keep his mind on football as much as he can without stressing about the idea of playing professionally. 

To take his mind off of training and football, Dandy will hang out with his family and friends all over the state of Georgia. 

“I’m staying with my auntie right now, so it’s my auntie, my cousin and my uncle. So, I’ll chill with them sometime during the week or the weekends,” Dandy said. “I’ll go visit my friend in Athens, [Georgia], and I have a sister that stays in Atlanta, so I’ll go visit her. I just try to do different things and chill with different people to not think about football.” 

Ever since he left Charleston to train back in Georgia, Dandy still keeps in touch with some of his teammates including fifth year defensive back Mark Aitken. 

“Me and Russ talk about his training from time to time,” Aitken said. “I know it’s hard on him, but he knows it’ll be worth it. Russ is one of the most dedicated and hard workers I know. He gave up a lot and changed a lot to get what he wanted.” 

As Dandy trained for his second pro day, he reflected on how far he came from when he first started playing football to where he is now. Over time, Dandy struggled with his confidence, as he didn’t fully gain confidence in himself until 2019. 

“My self-confidence wasn’t really there until I got out of [junior college] and started working real hard in football,” Dandy said. “Then, I got up to Eastern to see I can compete and excel in the league, so that’s when I realized I was somebody and that I could make money off of this.” 

Wilkerson has followed Dandy’s journey since Dandy left the campus to train and improve. 

“I’m super excited for Russ,” Wilkerson said. “He worked his tail off to get to Eastern Illinois, he worked his tail off while he was at Eastern Illinois and certainly since he’s had the chance to leave and prepare for these pro days.” 

Dandy continues to look up to people who come from the same state as him, one being Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Richard LeCounte III. The two played football together at Liberty County High School before LeCounte went to play college football for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. 

“It’s kind of turned into a smaller world when it comes to the sports thing,” Dandy said. “It’s possible, but it’s a small percentage for a reason because not everyone is willing to put up the investment. You have to put up mental and physical investment along with monetary investment.” 

Aitken has ample faith in Dandy and his abilities to make it into the NFL as a draft prospect or a free agent. 

“Russ has left a big mark on [Eastern’s] program,” Aitken said. “He gave the program a great look, represented the program great everywhere and he gave guys after him confidence to follow his path. Russ has a great chance of making the NFL. He will make it.” 

Wilkerson has watched multiple videos of Dandy’s improvements in his football skills before his pro days, and he thinks Dandy will get a call to join an NFL team’s camp over the summer. 

“I’m super excited for him, and I’m really proud of his work ethic and his efforts,” Wilkerson said. “It only takes one team to like you enough to draft you, but it only takes one team to sign you as a free agent where you get your foot in the door. I think that’s the goal for Russ is to get his foot in the door, be in an NFL preseason camp and then he has a chance to impress them while he’s there on a daily basis to make the 55-man team.” 


Zaria Flippin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]. 

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Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.

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