As a new season begins, I sure do miss Erk Russell

 I was going to write this morning about What We Learned on the final weekend before the start of the 2010 season. A lot of it wasn’t going to be good.

I was going to rag on Washaun Ealey, wondering which part he did not understand when the UGA coaches said: “Don’t drive on a suspended license.”

I was going to update you yet again on the money grab that is conference expansion as the WAC tries to save itself from being eliminated as a Division I-A conference.

I was going to raise a skeptical eye to South Carolina’s Weslye Saunders, who contacted a Columbia radio station to profess his love and loyalty to the school, his teammates and his coaches.  While expressing such devotion, Mr. Saunders has also managed to be under NCAA investigation on multiple fronts. Hard to show love and loyalty when you’re not on the field, youngster.

All of this comes on the heels of a tough, short summer that included athletics directors behaving badly, players behaving badly, bad agents behaving badly and one of the class coaches of the sport (Bobby Johnson of Vanderbilt) deciding that he’s had enough.

If you love college football like we do, you could be a little down about the state of the game.

But then a fraternity brother sent me a copy of “The Letter” from former Georgia defensive coordinator Erk Russell. Russell, for those of you out there too young to know, was the single greatest motivator of people that I have met. In July of 1980, just prior to the Georgia team returning to campus, Russell penned this letter to the Bulldog players.

A little background. The 1980 season would be the last for fans to sit on the railroad tracks that run along the outside of the East end of Sanford Stadium. Those folks would camp out on Friday night to be in place when the two teams arrived to enter the stadium on Saturday. It could get a little rowdy.

 But after the 1980 season expansion would enclose that end of the stadium and thus the tradition would end.  Coach Russell thought it would be a good idea to send “The Railroad Track Crowd” out with a season they would always remember.

So instead of reading about players misbehaving and all the stuff that is wrong with college football, take a minute to read Erk Russell’s letter:

 

July 7, 1980

 Gentlemen (and Linemen),

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 its individual memories, because each game has its 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 THE RAILROAD TRACK CROWD.  These are my people because they love the ‘Dogs almost as much as I do. Oh, I know they do some crazy things- like turn over our opponents’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 RAILROAD 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 NOTHING LIKE BEING A BULLDOG ON SATURDAY NIGHT—–AFTER WINNING A FOOTBALL GAME.” I mean like whipping Tennessee’s ass to start with, then ten more and then another one.

This is the game plan. We have no alternate plan.

Sincerely,

Erskine Russell

Assistant Head Football Coach

P.S.–Run!

In 1980 Georgia went 12-0 and won the national championship.

Even if you’re not a Georgia fan, that should get you in the mood for football season.  Let’s have a great one.

Please follow me on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/MrCFB

335 comments Add your comment

TonyBFan

August 30th, 2010
8:04 am

TonyBFan

August 30th, 2010
8:05 am

Oh wait, I’m supposed to be a dumb-A and write “first”. Sorry.

Charles Bradshaw

August 30th, 2010
8:10 am

As a Tennessee fan, I am still trying real hard to get over that first game you reference. Maybe having a Dooley on our sideline will do the trick after 30 years but I doubt it. You were down 15-0. Herschel should have debuted the next week.

Spike

August 30th, 2010
8:10 am

Tony, a fraternity brother also sent a copy of the letter to me. I once met Coach Russell. He had the strongest handskake I have ever experienced. Those were the days.

GA Vols Fan

August 30th, 2010
8:11 am

I am not going to be the head coach at Alabama. I am the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

August 30th, 2010
8:13 am

Tony— great job.

bungle bee

August 30th, 2010
8:15 am

gawd, u gotta luv Erk, and all the bulldawgs like him…

Old School

August 30th, 2010
8:16 am

Great post Tony. BTW, enjoyed your show last night.

Let’s tee it up!

Paul ( You doesn't have to call me Johnson)

August 30th, 2010
8:17 am

What! No more view from the railroad track?
I will just have to watch the game from Reed Hall

Still living in 1980...

August 30th, 2010
8:20 am

Says it all.

5IML

August 30th, 2010
8:22 am

Stories about this year’s season would get me in the mood for football season.

What dawg?

August 30th, 2010
8:22 am

I was in the mood for some football long before I wasted 3 minutes reading this. It’s Great to be An Auburn Tiger! War Eagle!

TDone

August 30th, 2010
8:23 am

So Tony, how are you going to placact the rest of your audience that are not Muttland fans?

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
8:25 am

The greatest failing of Vince Dooley as AD was that he didn’t bring Erk back to UGA, when Coach Dooley retired. The rumor was always that Vince was worried that Erk would overshadow him.

I got to meet him after a GSU playoff game when my buddy (who was a star linebacker for one of Erk’s National Champ teams) introduced us. He stood around and chatted with me kinda like any average-Joe down at the hardware store would. Seemed so laid-back. But not so, according to my linebacker buddy. He said Erk would get them so riled before a game, they would have run through brick wall if he’d just pointed at it!

Great guy, great coach. Just wish he could have finished his career at UGA.

athensdawg

August 30th, 2010
8:28 am

Now, if we could just get him back on the sidelines butting heads, bleeding and running the defense, I might have a little more hope for the future of this season.

Spike

August 30th, 2010
8:28 am

TDone..”placact”? You moron.

cuttysark

August 30th, 2010
8:29 am

Erk Russell was an excellent DC for the Dawgs, and it is unfortunate thet he was pushed out at GSU as their head coach. I will always wonder why he wasn’t given the head coaching job at UGA after all that he did for that school. I see a little bit of Erk in Paul Johnson on the sidelines now that he is coaching at Georgia Tech. Nice article and I too can’t wait for the season to start. For more Georgia Tech Football articles go to http://isportsweb.com

UGA Expert

August 30th, 2010
8:30 am

Looking back at similar seasons to 2009, you go back to 2001/2002 & 2006/2007. Both times Richt found a way to bounce back from dismal seasons, to a top 3 national finish, should have gotten an invite to the National Championship, both times.

Here’s the deal:
1) Florida lost 70% of its’ offense, guys like Cooper, Hernandez, Tebow, are all gone.
2) Alabama lost 70% of its’ defense

It reminds you a lot of 1979, when Georgia had a 6 win season, and critics had written Georgia off. And then, it happened. The 12-0 run, the National Championship.

Whether we’re talking 79′, 01′, or even 06′, critics have been wrong, we’re talking WAY wrong, all 3 times.

I fully expect Right to be in the National Championship conversation, all year. This time, I don’t see him losing a game.

Word Police

August 30th, 2010
8:31 am

TDone,

You’re killing me (and the English language)

Are you from Alabama or Tennessee?

hammerhead

August 30th, 2010
8:33 am

WonderDawg – Vince Dooley had nothing to do with the hiring (or non-hiring) of Erk Russell. Believe it or not, VD was seriously considering a run for Governor at the time and separated himself from the entire process. A “search committee” made up of boosters and local bankers botched the post-Dooley hire and, after, Dick Sheridan (NC State) turned ‘em down, they grabbed ol’ Ray Goff because they didn’t know any better and neither did he… Otherwise, we totally agree – Erk would’ve been one helluva HC following Dooley.

Dawgdom

August 30th, 2010
8:33 am

Great Article. Ealey will be fine.

5IML

August 30th, 2010
8:34 am

UGA Expert,

Does referencing BAMA’s and Florida’s personnel losses insinuate that UGA can’t win unless the conference heavyweights are down?

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
8:34 am

UGA Expert, I too think Richt won’t lose any games for UGA this season. But Mike Bobo will probably lose 3 or 4 games for UGA . . .

Dawgdom

August 30th, 2010
8:34 am

TonyBFan, that is funny!! Good job!

George Stein

August 30th, 2010
8:36 am

It’s game week!

59bulldawg

August 30th, 2010
8:36 am

You simply can’t be a Georgia Bulldawg and not love Erk. As for the Tennessee game that year, “My God . . . and he’s only a freshman!”

Jason

August 30th, 2010
8:37 am

The letter itself wasn’t that good mostly. But Erk gave the boys a dream of an undefeated season. That planted a seed. Undefeated, somebody’s got to believe it first, before it happens. Then you got to go out & execute. Of course, having Herschel Walker on the team didn’t hurt.

hammerhead

August 30th, 2010
8:37 am

The rumor at the time also was the search committee talked to Erk, but wanted him to commit “long term” and he only wanted to commit to five years. He was getting older and he fully knew the demands of the job. Again, the search committee botched this, not Dooley.

The Real SugarHillDawg

August 30th, 2010
8:40 am

UGA Expert, I am an alumnus and lifelong fan and I pray that you are right. It’s time for us to take our rightful place in the conversation. It’s time someone knocked the lizards of the top and give Meyer an teach Meyer some humility—what a JERK!!!

Picker

August 30th, 2010
8:40 am

Richt’s done better in his 1st 9 seasons that Bear Bryant.

Bear got 1 top 10 finish, Richt got 6.
Bear got 1 top 3 finish, Richt got 2.
Beat won about .725% of his games, Richt won about .770

Bear was great, Richt’s GREATER.

Frank Lane

August 30th, 2010
8:40 am

Tony,

I have often thought that Erk Russell may have been more important than Dooley. His record coaching without Dooley before and after Georgia was better than Dooley’s coaching without Russell and better than their record together I think. I loved him too. Thanks for sharing.

What fraternity were you in?

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
8:42 am

UGA Expert,
Must be nice to live in Fatasyland. How are my Gators gonna do in your “world”? LOL!
Tony,
I know you are a UGA grad, but can we get something other than Erk, Vince, Hershel, Lindsey, Munson, etc.? It’s been 30 years. Half of your audience wasn’t even alive. Let it go already.

nemov

August 30th, 2010
8:43 am

5IML – Someone always has to be “down.” Has Florida faced a full strength SEC East the past two season?

nemov

August 30th, 2010
8:45 am

The last time the Gators lost this much talent they lost 4 games including a loss to Michigan. Teams don’t simply “reload.” It’s fascinating that fans always seem to forget this fact.

Sugar Hill Dawg

August 30th, 2010
8:45 am

cuttysark – THAT’S what I was trying to figure out. Paul Johnson just needs to head butt a few D-linemen and he’d be the second coming of Erk! I was in at UGA from 71 – 75 – watching the pregame antics of Erk Russell (cut off black nylon shirt thing he used to wear, blood running down his forehead, etc.), thinking how great it is to be a Georgia Bulldog!!! I see a lot of Erk’s personality running through Paul Johnson. I’m a big fan of his – except, of course, Thanksgiving Saturday, when the Big Dawgs Eat!

Shut up

August 30th, 2010
8:46 am

Beast from the East, go read Bianchi and the other Orlando Gatorbutt sniffers if you don’t like Tony’s blog.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
8:46 am

nemov,
UGA was preseason #1 in 2008. Part of the reason they didn’t finish as highly as expected was the beatdown they faced at the hands of UF. What would you consider “full strength”?

5IML

August 30th, 2010
8:46 am

Picker (aka Patrick, Q Dog, etc.),

Give it a rest. You post the same stuff every weekday.

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
8:46 am

I remember Erk being quoted that he had been offered the job, and UGA denying it. “Botched” is probably too nice of a description for not getting Erk, then having the Ray Goff era bestowed upon UGA. Disastrous.

Never knew Dooley didn’t have his hands on the hiring/non-hiring though . . .

59bulldawg

August 30th, 2010
8:47 am

I love my Dawgs but let’s not go crazy here. Richt’s numbers thus far may be better, but Bear Bryant he ain’t! I didn’t know the Bear but I saw him coach. Mark Richt is no Bear Bryant. A good man? Definitely! A pretty good coach? Yes! Greater than Bear? It ain’t even close.

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
8:47 am

This article applies to Tech fans as well since Erk trained your current coach.

:) :) :)

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
8:48 am

Shut up,
I don’t care for Bianchi (he’s an idiot). I’m just tired of reading and hearing about the same thing. I think we all agree it was a magical season with lot’s of great storylines. But it’s been done to death. Can we not get a little more current?

Dawgdom

August 30th, 2010
8:49 am

Ass from the East, get lost. UGA is the state team for Georgia. The AJC is in Georgia. What a dumb ___ !

reese

August 30th, 2010
8:49 am

Damn – I still miss Lewis G

Chris

August 30th, 2010
8:50 am

As a GSU alum, I will always remember Erk for his time as an Eagle more than his UGA days. If you think Erk is beloved by bulldog fans you haven’t seen anything until you see the way he is remembered and treasured in Statesboro. When he passed away a few years ago the entire city went into mourning. Erk brought football back to Georgia Southern and established the school as a national power house. The eagles have won 6 national championships in the last 30 years. Paulson Stadium is one of the most feared places to play in FCS football. I grew up a Ga Tech fan (I still am btw). But Erk is a the true class act that can transcend petty rivalries. I respect him for what he did for both UGA and GSU… but I love him for what he did for all of college football.

LOL...

August 30th, 2010
8:51 am

Sheesh…. Tony what happened to you? why dont you just write for the “Red and Black” …

nemov

August 30th, 2010
8:51 am

Beast from East – UGA had 24 season ending injuries that (2008) season. Do you consider that full strength?

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
8:53 am

Dawgdom,
What about the anti-UGA bias I read about all weekend because Bradley only predicted UGA would win 9 games? Listen, I like Tony’s stuff. It just grows old to read different versions of the same thing over and over. He is supposed to be Mr. College Football…..not Mr. Northeast Georgia.

5IML

August 30th, 2010
8:55 am

nemov,

When Florida won the NC two years ago, UGA was preseason #1 with two first-rounders but, somehow, UGA and the division were down?

59bulldawg

August 30th, 2010
8:55 am

As long as Tony tells it like it is and doesn’t get into the “rah rah” blind homer stuff, Mr. Northeast Georgia is ok with me. LOL!