Oregon track and field’s Russell Hornsby grateful for childhood with Grammy-winning father

Junior Russell Hornsby is a member of the Oregon track team, competing in the 4x400 and 800 meters distances. The cinema studies major has been on the track team since his freshman year. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

Junior Russell Hornsby is a member of the Oregon track team, competing in the 4x400 and 800 meters distances. The cinema studies major has been on the track team since his freshman year. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

Posted by Chris Mosch on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 8:05 pm.

Growing up the son of a musical icon, Russell Hornsby didn’t have an ordinary childhood.

Russell, a junior middle-distance runner on the University of Oregon track and field team, grew up in Williamsburg, Va., the son of two-time Grammy Award winner Bruce Hornsby.

The nature of his job required Bruce to spend four-to-six months a year on the road, even after the birth of Russell and his identical twin brother, Keith, in 1992. Their mother, Kathy, recalls having a map labeled “Where is daddy?” hanging in the kitchen.

“We would plot his routes,” Kathy said, “so the kids were really good at U.S. geography as they got into school.”

As Russell and Keith entered elementary and junior high, they would travel with their mother a few times a year to meet up with Bruce while he was on tour. In addition to watching their father perform live, they enjoyed other perks of having a celebrity in the household.

The brothers met George Lucas and Oprah Winfrey on a yacht in New York during the 20th anniversary celebration of Spike Lee’s production company (Lee is one of Bruce’s best friends). They also got to hold the ball racks during the 2002 NBA all-star three-point shooting contest.

“Growing up around it when you’re little, you don’t really think about it,” Russell said about his father’s celebrity status. “I wish I could do a lot of that stuff now that I can actually appreciate it for what it was.”

While Bruce is most passionate about music, he is also a noted sports fanatic and watched Russell and Keith both develop a fondness for athletics at a young age. Rather than push them into the realm of his profession, Bruce let them find their own hobbies.

“Our dad just kind of saw that’s what we wanted to do,” Keith said. “He’d only push us into (music) if we really showed a love for it and we had our own thing, so he didn’t find that necessary.”

During high school, the brothers branched out, with Keith focusing on basketball and Russell specializing in middle distances on the track. During their final two years of high school they attended separate boarding schools, where they were able to hone their skills.

With Bruce still touring and Russell and Keith living away from home since their junior years of high school, moments when the whole family has been able to spend time together have been scarce. But a special weekend arose last November as Keith, who is sitting out this college basketball season after transferring from UNC-Asheville to LSU, was free during Thanksgiving for the first time in several years.

Bruce, Kathy and Keith all flew up to Eugene and celebrated Thanksgiving with dinner at King Estate Winery before watching the nail-biting Civil War football game the following day. Despite being on their own paths in life, the family remains very close as Russell and Keith each consider the other his best friend.

“It was really special,” Russell said about that weekend. “It’s something that needed to happen over the past couple of years.”

Follow Chris Mosch on Twitter @chris_mosch