No quarterback on the Georgia Southern football team gets more ear time with offensive coordinator Brent Davis and quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware than Russell DeMasi.
"I don’t talk to them," DeMasi said. "I just listen."
DeMasi is the Eagles’ scout team quarterback, and his job on Saturday is to signal in plays to quarterback Jaybo Shaw.
The Savannah sophomore is the player who normally stands closest to Coach Jeff Monken on the sidelines while wearing a headset connected to the voices of Davis and Ware in the press box.
After the play is called DeMasi goes through an elaborate set of signals similar to what a third base coach gives a hitter in the batters box.
In the Eagles 11 regular season games he did not get in for a single play.
However, in last Saturday’s 41-16 rout of South Carolina State with a little over six minutes to play, and the ball on the Bulldog three Monken told DeMasi to get in the game.
After Lee Banks gained two yards to the one DeMasi took it in for the touchdown.
On the Eagles’ next series DeMasi carried two more times for 12 yards, giving him 13 on three rushes.
Not a bad debut for a player whose football career appeared to be over following spring practice.
DeMasi, who came to Georgia Southern as a preferred walk-on after a fine career at Savannah Christian where he ran an option attack, began spring drills as the Eagles top quarterback.
However, he soon found himself behind Jawuan Luckey and A.J. McCray.
With Shaw coming as a transfer from Georgia Tech plus incoming freshmen signees Jerick McKinnon and Ezayi Youyoute it was time for Monken to have the "you don’t fit into our plans," talk.
It was tough for both coach and player. Especially, DeMasi.
"When you’ve played all your life it’s hard to hear you’re not good enough," DeMasi said. "Coach told me he would help me find a place to play if I wanted to transfer, but I didn’t want to leave Georgia Southern.
"I love this university so much."
"I told him he could make a contribution elsewhere," said Monken when DeMasi told him he wasn’t leaving. "He’s very competitive and a coach’s son like me. I told him he could go to film."
And, that’s what the now former quarterback did. He started taping practices which put him on the field near the players.
"That took a lot of humility," Monken said. "He’s walking around with a camera, and he’s walking around guys that had been his teammates."
However, the football can take some funny bounces.
In pre-season practice Youyoute pulled a hamstring, and Shaw took a shot in practice that shelved him for a few days. McCray was now on defense and that left McKinnon and Luckey who was also limping.
Monken knew he had to do something, and in a staff meeting it was decided to approach DeMasi about playing.
"I’m not too prideful," Monken said. "I went to him and told him we needed help, and I asked him if he wanted to come back."
But, first Monken told him to talk to his father, Karl, who had coached football at Savannah’s Groves High School where he had taken a downtrodden program and turned it into an annual playoff team.
DeMasi never talked to his dad. He came back in 10 minutes and told Monken he didn’t need to talk to his dad, that he wanted to play.
The day DeMasi rejoined the team Monken called the Eagles together and said, "I would like to introduce the newest member of the football team, Russell DeMasi."
At that announcement the team stood and cheered one of its most popular players.
"He’s one of my best friends," Shaw said. "He’s one of those guys who works hard to make all of us better. He’s always asking if you’re okay, or if you want to go get something to eat.
"We’re lucky to have him around."
Last Saturday’s win over the Bulldogs was the first game this season Monken had an opportunity to reward scout team players such as DeMasi with playing time.
"It was just a dream to be in the playoffs," DeMasi said. "I didn’t need to score. That was just frosting on the cake.
"My job is at the practice field," DeMasi said. "My job is to get the team ready for who we’re playing that week.
"I want to be better than the quarterback they’re going to face that week."