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.

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335 comments Add your comment

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
8:55 am

nemov,
Honestly, the East hasn’t been at full strength in many years. When UF and UT where up, UGA was down. When UGA started rising, then UT and UF started falling. Now that UF has risen again, UGA has slipped somewhat and UT is in shambles. UK, USC and Vandy have had their moments, but never really enjoyed any continued success.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
8:57 am

59bulldawg,
If I was a UGA fan, I would tend to agree with you.

nemov

August 30th, 2010
8:57 am

Beast from the East – I agree with that assessment. UGA has improved their coaching situation on Defense and expect UF and UGA to go back and forth.

59bulldawg

August 30th, 2010
8:58 am

Beast, I understand where you’re coming from!

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
8:59 am

I don’t get that, Suger Hill Dawg. While PJ’s a really good coach, Erk was not a smart-ass, nor was he prone to making snide remarks about opponents.

Hey, TonyBFan

August 30th, 2010
8:59 am

…you tried, but you were still a dumb-A, cause you wrote
“Oh wait, I’m supposed to be a dumb-A and write “first”. Sorry”.

And sorry, Tony, but ‘ol Erk, God rest his soul, loved UGA football so much that this statement”These are my people because they love the ‘Dogs almost as much as I do” really rings hollow when he dumped UGA for GA Southern…

guy

August 30th, 2010
9:00 am

when will uga fans stop living in 1980?

Dawgdom

August 30th, 2010
9:00 am

Beast, the problem with you lizards in general is the fact that you have been dominant over EVERYBODY in college football for the last 20 years but most of you handle it with no class. I guess you can’t “act like you’ve been there before” because prior to 1990, ZERO SEC titles. So, I guess being irrelevant for so long you should be excused for most of the s___t you guys smack ALL THE TIME.

59bulldawg

August 30th, 2010
9:01 am

1980 was a great year to be a Dawg! But to answer your question, I guess when and if we ever win another NC!

gt45

August 30th, 2010
9:06 am

The only UGA man I ever admired!

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
9:06 am

When hell freezes over, guy. Get lost.

JB

August 30th, 2010
9:06 am

Our friends on here who are haters will hate this article because if they are old enough, they will remember that they were usually on the losing end of a Erk coached defense, and it’s a time they want to forget…………or pretend never happened………..right old Gator fans ?

JB

August 30th, 2010
9:08 am

guy………………………….I guess when we never hear about the Boddy Dodd era again.

GSU Alum

August 30th, 2010
9:09 am

Erk was never forced out as the HC for GSU..Erk retired after the having the first 15-0 season in the history of college football.

guy

August 30th, 2010
9:10 am

JB, sorry my memory is too clouded by 20+ years of total dominance…

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
9:12 am

JB,
The only memory I’ve tried to erase was the run Lindesy run. Alas, Tony ensures that will never happen. LOL!
Seriously, I was 13 years old and I never wanted to leave a stadium as badly as I wanted to get out of there that day. We ended up being blocked in by Dawgs in the parking lot and had to endure several hours of “woofing”. Not a good day for a Gator. It definetly left an impression.

guy

August 30th, 2010
9:17 am

JB,
i must’ve missed all the articles the AJC has been running about the glory years of tech. weere they before or after the erk letter article, the articles about hershel walker’s multiple personality/book/MMA career (wtf?), the article about an entire book written about one play in 1980, etc. etc. etc.

please feel free to point me in the direction of this supposed glut of bobby dodd nostalgia.

JB

August 30th, 2010
9:17 am

Good stuff Beast…………It’s been a long time since we could look you guys in the eye except for a year or two…………Florida’s run has been unbelievable and we Dawgs fans are hoping we can make the game a rivalry again. Our struggles with you guys of late IMO has been on the defensive side of the ball. Richt’s teams, when the D isn’t throwing the offense under the bus, can score on anybody.
We’re hoping for better coaching and schemes and motivation from the defense in Athens now.

Dawgdom

August 30th, 2010
9:18 am

Beast, nice post to JB. I was there too in the endzone Scott ran to as a youngster. Look, I know we have our obnoxious fans too- many I wish we could lose.

Old Dawg

August 30th, 2010
9:18 am

Erk swore till his last day that UGA offered him the job but the South Georgia crowd pushed so much for Ray Goff that they had to relent.

Either way, he remains an icon all over the state. There are too few like him today … perhaps we will never see someone like him again.

Sad state of affairs.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
9:22 am

JB,
This year is still a mystery. UF could be great or could be a repeat of the 2007 season. UGA could be great or they could have a similar showing to 2009. Lot’s of questions for both teams. They both have tons of talent, but new schemes, coaches, players, etc have me worried. It should be an exciting year and up for grabs. Let’s not forget about South Carolina as they could make some noise, as well.

5IML

August 30th, 2010
9:23 am

Can someone steer this blog towards modern times? If so, please do.

guy

August 30th, 2010
9:24 am

JB, you guys sure lit up the scoreboard the past two years. stafford/moreno couldn’t even score a TD until the 4th quarter against the water boys. 90-27. some offensive juggernaut you have there.

Gene

August 30th, 2010
9:24 am

Imagine how Michael Adams would view the railroad-track crowd and Erk’s non-politically correct approval of them. Erk would not have lasted a season under Adams. But how many tons of garbage did mostly non-students toss on the campus last season, Mike? Players viewed Erk with a mixture of fear and respect. Those elements have been missing under Richt. You don’t get either by winking at bad behavior, frolicking with the boys in a swimming pool, or encouraging unsportsmanlike conduct on the field.

Lewis Grizzard

August 30th, 2010
9:25 am

You can see the original letter here: http://howboutthemdogs.com/erk.htm

Delbert D.

August 30th, 2010
9:27 am

What I remember about Erk is the bloody head when he’d go toe-to-toe with his guys with no helmet to fire them up.

5IML

August 30th, 2010
9:28 am

Thank you, Beast.

I feel that answering the defensive questions marks (i.e. new scheme, lack of lineman suitable for new scheme, overall depth) will have a more profound effect on UGA’s season than questions about the inexperienced QB. With a good O-line and two talented RB’s, Murray will be fine.

Road Scholar

August 30th, 2010
9:29 am

Erk was one helluva coach, and the Bulldawgs knew that they shouldn’t cross him or the team. Wish that was true today.

I see that the Bulldawgs are No 6 in sales of team attire. Where can I get a pair of those prison warmups with the big G on the front?

TommyJack

August 30th, 2010
9:29 am

JB

August 30th, 2010
9:29 am

guy, there are a few people and schools that look at all their history in football, good and bad. Most Florida fans I meet consider that Football started at UF in about 1990. No wonder most Gators ( Except classy beast) don’t want to talk about their history, because before say 1990, all Florida had was a lot of disappointments, like UGA lately.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 30th, 2010
9:30 am

If that doesn’t give you cold chills! It is that time of the year again! Erk and Lewis great Dawgs! Have to break out the old Grizzard audio tape Saturday morning it sounds like. Love the story of the boy who wants money from his dad because of a gambling debt, but he tells his dad that the University is teaching his dog to talk. Thats good stuff.

Ole Ball Fan

August 30th, 2010
9:31 am

Tech fans love and respect Erk Russell too!

Foghorn Leghorn

August 30th, 2010
9:31 am

If you are an Erk fan, or just a fan of college football, try to get your hands on a copy of “Erk. Football, Fans & Friends” by Erskine Russell with Ric Mandes. It’s out of print, but you might find a copy in a used bookstore or public library. It’s hilarious! And in a chapter titled “Georgia Did Call” Erk gives his version his dealing with the UGA search committee. It basically came down to Erk not wanting to make a long term commitment to anybody. He was already thinking of retiring anyway.

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
9:32 am

Tony nice article I was one of the Rail Road crowd during the mid and late 70’s..good times (what I can remember) rowdy really doesn’t do justice to some of the antics ! Chris nice post about Erk he really had a great impact on football in our great state and beyond !

cuttysark

August 30th, 2010
9:33 am

Sugar Hill Dog,

Of all of the college coaches in the game today, Paul Johnson would be the first one to head butt a player on the sidelines to get him motivated. UGA made a huge mistake not hiring Erk back in the day. Had they made that hire they would have avoided the Donnan and Goff mistakes that did nothing for the program. Erk Russell was THE “Junkyard Dawg” defense!

JB

August 30th, 2010
9:34 am

guy……………………………..I wish they sold it, I’d buy you some, but you either have some class or not……………..I don’t know how old you are, but what goes around comes around, and be ready for it when it does……………..Try a little class.

jumbeauxtiger

August 30th, 2010
9:36 am

I am glad it’s finally game week! It seems like a long time since January.

What we didn’t have in 1980 was a game on Thursday night. I think ESPN has done alot for college football and it’s nice the season kicks off in just 3 days.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

Jax dawg

August 30th, 2010
9:36 am

Beast,

So, Tony highlights one of the best that every coached this game and he is a homer. He gives similar attention to the Ol Ball Coach and he is Mr College Football.

Just so, I understand.

Tony,

You had me at (Dear Gentleman (and Lineman)).

Keep it up!

guy

August 30th, 2010
9:37 am

JB, for a school supposedly celebrating their entire history, you guys sure do seem to focus on one year a whole lot…

as for being classy and what goes around comes around, you mean like you guys after that endzone dance?

Mobile Dawg

August 30th, 2010
9:37 am

The 1980 season was truly magical. It will never leave the memory of us older Dawgs. We have the resources this year to have a good year, maybe great. Of course the young QB concerns us but we have the cast around him to allow him to develop slowly if properly coached. The unknowns of the defense is my biggest concern. I have faith in CTG but I have to wonder if he has the personnel to run this “D” in his first year. As always, I start the year with great anticipation and faith. GATA Dawgs, it’s game week….

And, thanks Tony for being loyal to your Alma Mater first, unlike some other “sports” personalities out there.

Concerned

August 30th, 2010
9:41 am

Guys-

Coach Russell was offered the UGA job and turned it down. Coach Dooley was instrumental in trying to get Coach Russell back to UGA. Dooley thought he would take the job automatically. However, Russell told UGA that he was going to retire in a year or two and couldn’t accept the position.
Coach Russell retired after one more season…15-0 in ‘89.

RxDawg

August 30th, 2010
9:42 am

The Bald Eagle! Man, you ain’t kidding Tony. I miss him too. I’m pretty young in the grand scheme of college football. I barely remember the Dooley years. But I had the pleasure of meeting Erk at GSU during my undergrad days there. Truly a man’s man, someone we can all look up to.

virginia dog

August 30th, 2010
9:45 am

Bear Bryant was once asked where was the toughest place in the SEC to play. he responed … “athens , because of those fans on the tracks. it is the only place where we are booed and have rocks thrown at us on a friday afternoon walk thru.”

JB

August 30th, 2010
9:45 am

guy, You and I control what we post here, not end zone dances……………Have some fun with this, discuss football and leave the jabs alone, for you give the good Florida fans a bad name, as our bashers give us a bad name. Be a leader, not a follower.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
9:46 am

Jax Dawg,
Yes, Tony is a homer. You know it, I know it……even he knows it. That being said, I still love to read his posts everyday and will continue to do so.

jumbeauxtiger,
I agree with you about ESPN. Don’t care for some of their commentators and analysts, but I do enjoy the extra coverage of college football.

GSU Eagle 91

August 30th, 2010
9:47 am

I wanted to address the comment that Erk was “pushed out” at GSU as the head Coach. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He decided that after 40 years of coaching it was time to step down and do something else for awhile. I heard him say it and I know he said it with sincerity.
The fact that our GSC ( at that time) team went 15-0 seemed to be that perfect time to step down and hand the reins over to an experienced coach.
Dawg fans…He was offered the Head Coach position at your school but he did not want to commit a lot of years to that, or any other, position.
I do know we all miss him!

Savannah Jacket

August 30th, 2010
9:47 am

Tony – Great Article. Having grown up in and around Statesboro I had the pleasure of watching Erk build a national championship team from nothing, starting out on a highschool football field in 1982 and wining back to back I-AA NC in 85 & 86. He was the best motivator that I have ever heard speak. The “good ones” that coached with and under him seem to carry that same no-nonsense straight forward approach. Erk is one of the best coaches that was ever in college football and it is an absolute shame that his is not in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Go Jackets!!!!

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
9:48 am

jumbeauxtiger yeppers can’t wait for Thursday…and best of luck to your Tigers in your opener!

JB

August 30th, 2010
9:49 am

Tony better be a homer………..This is the ATLANTA Journal, and although he is Mr. College football, he grea up near Athens, Be he’s been tough on the Dawgs at times, and usually, it was deserved.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
9:51 am

JB,
Well said. I still throw in a little “jab” every now and then, but I made myself a personal commitment that I would refrain from the name-calling. Some days it’s hard, but I try to do my part to keep the conversations civil. Atlanta Gator has been a great example for me to follow. We’re never to old (or young) to learn.