Born in Killorglin, County Kerry in 1977, Russell was educated at the local primary school before later attending the Intermediate School in Killorglin. It was here that Russell's football skills were first developed and he became a key member of the school's senior team. In 1996 he captured a Corn Uí Mhuirí winners' medal as the Killorglin school captured the Munster colleges' title. An All-Ireland colleges' final appearance beckoned for Russell's side with St Patrick's of Maghera providing the opposition. Killorglin went on a goal scoring spree and proved more than a match for the point-scoring abilities of St Pat's. A 4-8 to 1-14 score line gave Killorglin the win and gave Russell an All-Ireland colleges' winners' medal.
Russell currently works as a teacher in Mercy Holy Cross primary school in Killarney. In 2009 he married Sinead O'Brien in Killorglin.
Russell attended the Institute of Technology, Tralee (ITT), where he lined out with the institutes's senior football team and enjoyed some success. In the 1997-98 season his side reached the final of the inter-varsities football competition. The University of Ulster provided the opposition on that occasion in Austin Stack Park; however, ITT won the game by 0-10 to 0-8, giving Russell a coveted Sigerson Cup winners' medal.
Russell made his debut for Kerry in the 1997 season. He became a key forward for Kerry over the next decade, winning a total of five All-Ireland medals with Kerry. He was also selected for the All-Star team in 2000. He retired from inter-county football in 2009.