When Jeremy Russell changed from the class of 2010 to the class of 2011, he didn't make the decision with his head or his heart — his leg made the call for him.
A standout defender and assistant captain for the men's hockey team, Russell was a sophomore when he fell and mangled his knee, missing an entire season on the ice in the process.
"I wasn't able to skate for five months," he recalled. "And I basically couldn't walk on it for a month."
Russell has known that he would stay a fifth year ever since, to take advantage of the full four years of competitive eligibility that the NCAA affords injured athletes like him.
Though the injury will keep him from graduating with his original class, Russell sees the opportunity to stay another year at Brown as a blessing in disguise. The injury gave Russell, a neuroscience and economics concentrator, a chance to take extra classes in science and add a second concentration.
"It was just a really good opportunity to make the most of Brown," he said. "Not many places are like that, and I couldn't be happier that I did it."
And with the help of the athletic training staff, Russell rehabilitated his knee to full strength. Athletic Trainer Brian Daigneault "pushed me to get back as soon as I could, and as strong as I could," Russell said.
Russell has not missed a single game for the Bears in two seasons since.
Still, not graduating this weekend is bittersweet for Russell, especially because he formed a close bond with his teammates from the class of 2010 during their very first days on campus. In the four years since, he said, he and his 2010 classmates have helped generate new excitement about Brown hockey that he hopes will continue to grow even after they graduate.
"We struggled together and found our way together," he said. "It's going to be tough to see them go, but it is what it is."
Although he'll be sad to see his teammates graduate, the rising senior is excited to serve as a role model to his younger teammates — next year will be his second in a row as assistant captain. And as soon as Commencement activities are finished, Russell and his teammates will start training again. He and four other players will live together this summer, doing rigorous offseason workouts under the purview of a strength coach.
Russell aspires to play hockey professionally after graduating from Brown, and having a stellar campaign in what will now be his senior season would be a great start.
It's an opportunity he aims to make the most of. After all, were it not an unlucky — or lucky — break, his playing days might already be over.