- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Whenever Tyler Russell needs the motivation to throw that extra practice pass, run that extra sprint or bust out a couple more reps in the gym, he doesn't have to look far to find it.
There's plenty of upsetting tape he can look at from the last six games of the season or he can just take a gander at his Twitter timeline.
In the past few months, Russell has spent more time reading over criticism-filled tweets sent his way than he'd like to remember. This isn't new development for college athletes, but what does sting a little is when those comments come from so-called Mississippi State fans.
“It’s highly motivating," Russell said.
They come in all the traditionally unoriginal types. Being told he's not fit to play for the Bulldogs, isn't an SEC-caliber quarterback or needs to be benched -- or leave Mississippi State all together -- is some of the PG-rated nonsense he's accustomed to seeing. Things have been a lot uglier and personal, but they're nothing he sulks over. It just adds fuel to his final year with the Bulldogs.
“I see something like that and it reminds me of what happened in the bowl game and I just turn it to another level and I just go crazy, kinda," Russell said.
“I’m trying to prove to everybody that I am the player that I can be and Mississippi State is a good football team and we will be good next year.”
Russell understands that hate is going to come his way. You're only as good as your last game, and Russell admits he wasn't very good in his last games of 2012.
After starting the season as one of the nation's most efficient quarterbacks with his 15 touchdowns and one interception during the Bulldogs' 7-0 start, Russell threw nine touchdowns to seven interceptions in the final six games of the season. Mississippi State went 1-5 during that stretch, including losing to archrival Ole Miss 41-24 (two interceptions) and 34-20 to Northwestern in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (four interceptions).
More than fan reactions, watching film really gets to Russell. Watching him force passes and try to be the hero with erratic throws in order to dig the Bulldogs out of holes disgusts him. He knows he's better than the quarterback who ended the season on a few losing notes. He dissects old plays from last season and new plays from this spring with the constant thought of getting better.
“It was a wake-up call, like, ‘Dang, Tyler, you have one more year. You have to step up and be that guy,'" he said.
Russell finished the season with 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, but his 106-yard outing with two touchdowns and four picks against Northwestern seemed to erase everything he did in 2012 and has set his Twitter timeline ablaze. Russell took the high road with most of his responses, usually responding to all of his haters at once with motivational quotes. He insists they kept him going, not moping.
“A lot of people can say stuff, but they can hide in the stands," he said. "Every day when we go out here as SEC football players we’re put in the spotlight. We’re put out there to make plays and get glory, but we’re also put out there to fail, too.”
And Russell isn't looking to hide in the stands or behind Twitter names. He's ready to be front and center for Mississippi State's program, as he vows to put 2012 behind him and turn things up in 2013.
"I don’t really worry about what people say," he said, "I just let it motivate me.
"I must be doing something right if they are taking the time to say anything to me.”