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2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner: Russell Maryland

Former Miami standout now a respected voice in the football community

Russell Maryland, 2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner

As a young boy, Russell Maryland’s father told him “anything you put your mind to, you have to do with all your heart.” Years later, no phrase better encapsulates Maryland’s decorated football career and commitment to community stewardship.

Maryland’s generosity, selflessness and team-oriented attitude off the field mirror the championship legacy he left on it. Maryland, a College Football Hall of Fame honoree, won two national championships at the University of Miami (Florida) and three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.

He later returned to the NFL to work in player engagement, helping athletes and their families. Since the early 1990s, Maryland has put youth development, interpersonal relationships and community enhancement first while becoming a respected voice at all levels of football.

“The conscience” of Miami football

Maryland was not heavily recruited out of high school. He began playing football in ninth grade after his parents, his greatest influence, nudged him toward the sport and told him “quitting wasn’t an option.” After Miami missed on a nearby blue-chip recruit in Chicago, the team courted Maryland. He received the last scholarship Miami coach Jimmy Johnson gave in 1986.

At Miami, Maryland became known by his teammates as “the conscience” because of his work ethic, resilience, academic success, leadership and positive attitude. A tackle, Maryland would become one of the most dominant defensive players in college football history. During his tenure, Miami went undefeated at home and compiled a 44-4 record overall. He was a two-time All-American and the 1990 Outland Trophy winner – awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman.

His teammates looked to him as a role model. He spearheaded community outreach to local children’s hospitals and demonstrated the right balance between academics and athletics. Not surprisingly, he remembers his teammates most fondly. “It was the winning together, the learning together, a band of brothers who enjoyed the heck out of the game I’ll always miss,” he recalled.

Maryland graduated in 1990 – his “proudest accomplishment.”

With the first overall pick …

The Cowboys took Maryland No. 1 overall in the 1991 NFL draft – a “heartwarming” moment, he said. And while Maryland would spend 10 years in the league, to him playing in the NFL was about more than stopping the run. It also was about using his platform to enhance the community around him.

In 1993, Maryland founded the Russell Maryland Foundation in Chicago. It provided educational resources and recreational enrichment, free football clinics and camps, and scholarships to Chicago-area schools and children. He retired from the NFL in 2001, but when football ended, his drive to give back didn’t diminish. 

A voice

Maryland was raised in a household of giving, church-oriented parents who believe in the importance of aligning your good name with good causes. He has done just that.

Now living in Southlake, Texas, he has helped the local school district by becoming involved with Digging for Dragons, a nonprofit foundation that supports music and arts in schools. In 2012, he became the spokesperson and a member of the board of directors for the C5 Youth Foundation of Texas, which aims to improve the odds for high-potential youth in risk-filled environments.

Maryland hasn’t left his football roots behind. In 2001, he was honored as a member of the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame and now serves on the bowl’s board of directors. Also, 12 years after leaving the NFL, he returned in an ideal role: as the assistant director of player engagement for the Cleveland Browns. He helped current players find and use resources to further educate themselves and provide more opportunities for their families.

Maryland, who worked with the Cowboys during their 2015 training camp, hasn’t lost sight of the big picture.

“Sometimes it takes a recognizable figure to hammer home the important values of living a clean life and the importance of relationships,” he said. “As long as I have a voice, I want to be that person.”