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September 8, 2006


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.

    "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
    Legendary words indeed. He will be greatly missed. - Floyd

More on Erk's Life:Feel free to post your Erk memories in the comment area below.



Anonymous said...

Sad day. The Pic of Erk with blood running down his forehead is immortal.

Anonymous said...

Some quotes from the late, great, Erskine Russell. RIP you Junkyard Dawg.

"I was taught better at home than to be disrespectful to anybody"

"I was a pretty good kid. I really didn't get into too much trouble. On one occassion, just after school, a group of boys met in the boys' bathroom and somebody was rolling dice...I remember, I stepped in and said, "My turn" and I put a dime down there and my point was 10...I was saying "Come on 10, come on 10" and I looked around all of a sudden and there was no body there. And I turned all the way around and our shop teacher, Mr. Sparks, said "Come on Russell."...I learned a good lesson: Don't try to make 10."

"I started out in the school of business. The first or second quarter that I was there I took accounting and I said, I don't believe this is for me."

"I beleive political correctness is one of the most dangerous movements facing America."

"You know what a consultant is, don't you? A consultant is a guy who know 100 different sex positions, but doesn't know a woman."

"The South, to me, is fried chicken and catfish caviar- that's grits- and good looking women."

"Communication is the most important technique in teach and in coaching, eyeball to eyeball, one on one: "This is what we want to accomplish, and this is the way we're going to accomplish it." Not memos,not bulletin boards, or announcements, one on one."

"I was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame- 500 people in a big room- and a man with a roving microphone stuck it in front of my wife and said, 'How did a nice looking lady like you live with this old bald-headed so and so for so many years?' And without blinking she said, 'He was never at home'"

"Fame wasn't important. I didn't even know it existed. I saw my name in the paper and my picture in the paper a lot, but I felt like I could overcome that."

"I have very little use for cell phones, but they seem to be free on the weekends."

"I think most golfers would just about swap their front-row seat in hell for 30 more yards off the tee."

"As a young coach, I ran with the players. As a 55-year old coach, I jogged with the players. As an old coach of 60, 64, 65, I had to start woggin'. A wog is a little bit faster than a walk, but slower than a jog."

"The best way to win a game is not to lose it."

"If you don't have the best of everything, make the best of what you have."

"I haven't been very smart, but what I have been is lucky. Somebody asked me about the last year that I coached at Southern, 'What would I like for people to say about me after I'm gone?' And I told them, 'I would like for them to say, He was the luckiest SOB that I've ever seen.' And I have been that. Smart? No. No way."

Anonymous said...

Of course all the oldtimers know this, but some of the youngsters may not.

Erk would warm up the D-line on the field before every game by getting down in a stance and going helmet to helmet with them. Except, of course, he didn't have a helmet. Or even hair. Blood would run, sometimes quite a lot of blood.

Now THAT'S motivation.

Michael Pigott said...

The loss of anyone from my homestate(even Barners) is sad. He appeared to be one tough S.O.B.

God bless and R.I.P.

Dawgnoxious said...

I know a guy from Statesboro who lived in Erk's neighborhood. He said when he jogged past Erk's house he would step it up a notch because he wouldn't want Erk to accuse him of loafing.

That's the kind of effect he had on people. Nobody talks about what a great tactical coach Erk was--and he was a good one--because his ability to connect with and motivate people made him such a towering giant.

Think about it: GATA, Eagle Creek water, Junkyard Dawgs, etc. They're all Erk Russell creations. They don't make'em like hat any more. God bless that damn good dog.

Anonymous said...

Erskine Russell was THE Georgia Bulldog.

We're going to miss him terribly.

Anonymous said...

Another Dawg Fans' tribute to Erk.

Anonymous said...

I heard him speak when I was at Boys State on the GSU campus back in 1986.

I still remember these jokes he told:

"Last year I went to a Halloween party. I was dressed as Ban roll-on."

"My wife once said to me, 'Erk, sometimes I think you love football more than you love me.' I replied, 'Yes, honey, but I still love you more than I love track.'"


He was a football legend in the state of Georgia.

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