Russ Yeast Becomes First CGHS Grad Selected in the NFL Draft
Writer / Kevin Conrad
On April 30, 2022, history was made for Center Grove. 2017 Center Grove High School (CGHS) graduate Russ Yeast became the first CGHS football player to be selected in the National Football League draft. Russ was drafted by the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the seventh round.
“It’s just a blessing and honor to be the first Center Grove graduate to accomplish that goal,” Russ says. “With that being said, I do not want to be the last. I would like to be an inspiration to the ones in the program and the ones yet to come that they can do it too. Hopefully that number grows from one to many in the future.”
Russ moved to Greenwood in 2016 when his father, Craig, accepted an assistant football coach position at Franklin College. He played one season for the Trojans in 2016, helping them to a 12-2 record and a second-place finish in the Class 6A State Tournament and the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
He posted some jaw-dropping statistics in his senior season at CGHS, leading the Trojans with 1,525 rushing yards, 602 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns. On senior night, Russ caught five touchdown passes to go along with 221 receiving yards to lead his team past Cathedral, 44-41 in overtime. In the final-four game of the state tournament, Russ ran for 174 yards and four scores in a 42-22 win at Ben Davis.
Russ earned numerous postseason accolades, including Under Armour All-American, First Team All-State, Indiana Player of the Year by USA Today Sports, Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year, and runner-up for Indiana Mr. Football.
CGHS Head Coach Eric Moore has a sign above the football stadium player entrance that says, “Hard Work x Dedication = Success.”
“Russ really exudes this,” Moore says. “He took a big chance on believing in us. He bought into everything. He took advantage of every situation.”
After graduating from CGHS, Russ went on to play college football as a defensive back at Louisville from 2017 to 2020, and at Kansas State in 2021. He earned his undergraduate degree from Louisville and returned to complete his master’s degree in sports administration.
“I am beyond proud of what Russ was able to accomplish academically,” says Russ’s mother Tori. “We always stressed the importance of academics, because one day football will end. The fact that he made finishing his degree a priority even when he was training and preparing for the draft tells you all that you need to know about him as a person.”
“He’s always been a good student, committed to what he’s supposed to be doing, and that’s academics first,” Moore adds. “That just shows he’s a kid that has put in the time and effort to work for everything, not just on the gridiron.”
From the time Russ set foot onto the CGHS football field, through college, and now in the start of his pro career, he and his family have appreciated the support from the Center Grove community.
“I was always grateful for how the Center Grove football family welcomed me from the very beginning, and appreciated their continued support throughout my collegiate career,” he says. “It is motivating to know that a community of people is supporting me. My time at Center Grove helped mold me into the person and player I am today. Coach Moore expected nothing but the best. I believe the lessons I learned from him and the CG football program are aspects I still use to this day to help me be the best I can be.”
“I am in awe of the overwhelming support that Russ has continued to receive from the Center Grove community,” Craig says. “It means a lot that he has a place he can call home away from home. Coach Moore and Russ have a great relationship. Russ respects his advice and his opinion. My wife and I couldn’t have asked for our son to play for a better man.”
Family is at the very cornerstone of Russ’s success both on and off the field. His father played football for Kentucky, setting numerous school and conference records in pass receiving. He was drafted in 1999 in the third round by Cincinnati, playing nine seasons in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets. His mother played basketball for Kentucky. His younger sister Kiyah is a 2020 CGHS graduate and a 2019 indoor state champion sprinter. She is now a sophomore at Louisville on a track scholarship.
“My family has always been my support system and my biggest fan,” Russ says. “Regardless of the highs and lows, I know that will never change. That makes me want to be the best I can be. I definitely would not have even made it this far without their support.”
When it was time to select a jersey number, Russ Yeast was thankful the Rams had number 43 available.
“Just another example of how blessed I am and how everything happens for a reason,” Russ says. “The number 43 means a lot to my family. It’s what my mom wore [as a high school basketball player], and she wore 43 because that’s the number my aunt wore before her. The fact that it was one of the few numbers available for me to choose from just tells me I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I just need to work hard and trust the process.”
“When Russ told me he had chosen to wear 43, I was surprised,” Tori says. “There’s significant meaning behind that number for me and I was touched that he saw it in the same regard. Russ has been a joy to watch since he first started playing football, but what I am most proud of is who he is and what he is about. He’s a fantastic young man who just happens to be a really good football player.”
“I am absolutely proud of what he’s been able to accomplish on the field,” Craig says. “His love for the game and drive to accomplish all of those things is exactly why he’s in the position he’s in today.”