Russell home has Domino effect
By William Kalec
Saturday, 09/03, 8 p.m.
BATON ROUGE - It’s 2 p.m. on Sept 3 - a date JaMarcus Russell circled on the calendar a long time ago - and LSU’s sophomore quarterback wipes away a yawn and shakes his heavy head with anchored eyelids.
Former season-opening opponent North Texas isn’t in town, but Russell, visibly exhausted, sucks it up and puts on his game face once more.
“Five minutes,” he says, slouched in a folding chair, cell phone resting on his lap and stomach.
It’s unclear whether Russell is referring to the time he’ll take to answer questions about one of the more quirky and light stories from Hurricane Katrina’s merciless aftermath or the length he’s been able to sleep during the past week
Destruction along the Gulf Coast turned Russell’s off-campus apartment into an oversized Tetris board. Twenty-three friends or family members - including legendary musician Fats Domino - somehow found a sliver to sleep while Russell served as a 24-hour delivery system, picking up supplies, clothes and bedding.
“Tell the people of New Orleans that I'm safe,” Domino said in an LSU release. "I wish I was able to still be there with them, but I hope to see them soon. I want to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to JaMarcus for opening up and sharing his home with us.”
Domino, a 77-year-old Rock ‘N’ Roll icon whose hits include “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame”, originally decided to ride out the storm and stayed on the upper level of his 9th Ward residence. But when floodwaters failed to lower, rescue workers saved Domino. Upon arriving in Baton Rouge, he registered in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, which is being used as a medical triage.
Russell said he received a phone call that Domino - who is related to Russell’s girlfriend, Chantel Brimmer of New Orleans - was possibly at the PMAC.
“We went looking for him,” Russell said. “And through the grace of God, we found him.”
Russell said that Domino did not provide specific details of his escape. It also took Domino some time to realize where he was and that the couch he was sleeping on belonged to LSU’s projected starting quarterback.
“He’s a cool, old guy,” Russell said. “Fun to be around especially since he’s so into music. That’s kinda jazzy to me. You see an old guy who is able to sing and make up rhymes and songs as quick as he does; I think that’s great.”
Russell and Domino had met previously, so neither was star-struck during this unexpected meeting.
“I didn’t look at it as him being a celebrity,” Russell said. “I looked at it as him being a person without a home to go back to. People try to make it a big deal, but I don’t think it is. … I just look at it as someone who needed help.”
After spending two nights with Russell, Domino left Friday. There are now six people staying at Russell’s place. Russell is one of several LSU football players hosting evacuees.
“The kids are taking on a personal burden to help anybody they can, and it’s very commendable,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “It’s the right thing. It’s what the state should be doing and the country should be doing within the state. It’s tremendously taxing when you get closer to game week.
“Several of our players have more people in their apartment than they have any right to have in their apartment,” Miles said earlier. “ And you can’t kick them out, because certainly it’s the right thing. And they’re not sleeping. Some of them don’t have their own bed. There’s some drain on our players, both emotionally and physically.”