Erk Russell speaking to UGA Players in Spring 2002 (ABH)
A man and a personality bigger than life. A voice that could fire up a team of pre-schoolers to victory. A good man. A helluva an Eagle. A Damn Good Dawg.
Erk Russell passed away this morning according to the AJC. It appears that he had a stroke before being involved in a car accident (WTOC-TV). More articles at the bottom of this blog post.
The former UGA defensive coordinator (1964-1980) and architect of the Junkyard Dawg Defense left UGA after the 1980 National Championship season to become the head coach at Georgia Southern. He started their program from scratch. Three years later GSU had their first of three national titles under Erk.
This is a sad day for the Russell Family, the Bulldawg Nation, GSU Fans and the State of Georgia. Mike Floyd wrote a great obituary for his email newsletter that I'm pasting below.
- - - - -
- It's a sad day in Georgia.
The Legendary Erk Russell, mastermind of the "Junkyard Dawg" defense and National Champion coach of the Georgia Southern Eagles, passed away this morning in Statesboro.
While Vince Dooley receives much-deserved credit for elevating the Georgia program to unmatched heights, it was Erk Russell who gave the Dawgs their tenacity and overachieving persona.
On a personal note, my first memory of Georgia football was Erk walking off the field at Clemson with blood running into his eyes after going head-to-helmet with the Georgia defense. The sight of blood, Erk insisted, was required to fire up the Dawgs.
On every level, Erk Russell was one Helluva man and the most towering sports figure in the history of our State.
Behold, his immortal words prior to the 1980 National Championship season:
"Gentlemen, the football season of '80 will be my seventeenth as a Georgia Bulldog. During this time there have been many thrilling Saturdays of competition, each with it's individual memories, because each game has it's own personality.Legendary words indeed. He will be greatly missed. - Floyd
"There are two Saturday traditions and experiences which have remained basically the same throughout the years for me and I would like to share them with you. The first one concerns the railroad track crowd.
These are my people because they love the Dawgs almost as much as I do. Oh, I know they do some crazy things like turn over our opponent's buses sometimes and now and then they throw one another down the bank and into the street below. But they stamp out kudzu and they pull for us to win and that ain't bad.
"If you can get off the bus to cheers of the railroad track crowd and walk down those steps to the dressing room and not be inspired to play football as best you possibly can, something important is missing beneath the Georgia jersey you wear. It is impossible not to be inspired. They choke me up!
"The season of 1980 will be the last for the rairoad track crowd. A great Georgia tradition will have passed with the new addition to our stadium. The view from the tracks will be no more. Your team will be the last Georgia team to be greeted and cheered by the railroad track crowd. Wouldn't it be fitting if their last team was also the best Georgia team ever? Think about it!
"Another Saturday tradition which has meant so much to me over the years can be stated very simply. There ain't nothin' like being a Bulldog on a Saturday night - after winning a football game! I mean like whipping Tennessee's ass to start with, then ten more and then another one. That is the plan. There is no alternate plan." -Coach Erk Russell
More on Erk's Life:
- Athens Banner Herald Article on Erk's move to GSU - 2004
- Legendary Coach Russell Dies - ESPN/AP
- Athens Banner-Herald Tribute - ABH
- Official UGA Tribute Article - Georgiadogs.com
- WTOC's Obit
- Erk Russell Passes Away - AJC
- Coach Russell Photos - AJC
- What They are Saying - AJC
- Erk Russell Timeline - AJC
- Stateboro Herald's Story (developing)