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

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
9:55 am

And TampaGator, Beast. Analysis and humor. He’s (or she’s?) hard to beat.

DawgByte

August 30th, 2010
9:56 am

Hmmm, failed to mention that many consider the 1980 Uga team the weakest National Champion EVER! We beat only two teams with winning records that year during the regular season. A South Carolina team that finished 7-5 and a Florida team that went 8-4. We did beat Notre Dame in the Sugar but shoot even Yech tied them that year and remember Yech did not win a single game all year. Why is it we only win when the rest of the conference is mediocre??? I expect us to win the East this year for that very reason. East is very weak this year.

jumbeauxtiger

August 30th, 2010
9:56 am

I agree Beast but no matter who ESPN has on there someone is not going to like an analyst and/or commentator.

Thanks how2fish. That’s a big game for the Tigers.

5IML

August 30th, 2010
9:57 am

With all the craziness going on in Chapel Hill, LSU should have a much easier time on Saturday. I don’t usually root for Les but I’d like to see the SEC keep the CFA Kickoff Game streak alive.

reebok

August 30th, 2010
9:58 am

tech fan here…always liked Erk.

Ghost of Erk

August 30th, 2010
10:01 am

In honor of Mr. Russell we’re gonna whip Tennessee’s ass worse than ever this year.

CharlotteGator

August 30th, 2010
10:01 am

This season can’t get here soon enough.

Really looking forward to watching the young WR’s and young players on D at UF. Brantley I think will be fine with a couple of games under his belt. The USF game will be good to get some good competition/reps.

Interested to watch the RB duo and offense at Bama. One of the few times in recent memory I can remember the Bama offense being expected to be ‘explosive.’ That’s a hard mantle to carry even with all the talent in the world. A few doubts/issues seep in and it’s hard to catch a rhythm. I think that’ll be a great team, that’s just a dynamic between the teams and fanbase I’ll be interested to watch.

Really intrigued by the UGA D. I think they’ll be much more energized by the new coach and schemes they get to run, I just don’t know if the personnel lines up they way Dawg fans would want. I can also see some breakdowns in key moments (just like UF will have) due to unfamiliarity with the scheme. UF and UGA will both deal w/ somewhat slower D’s at times as players think about their responsibilities instead of responding with instinct and confidence. AJ should be fun to watch as always, but you’ll really need King and Charles to step up. If there’s a sophomore slump with either, it could be tough sledding.

Jefferson at LSU should have a good year as well. Sheppard isn’t breathing down his neck for time (which I don’t think he deserved anyway) and he should be a little more freed and relaxed to just go and play. He’s got talent and can get it done, just not sure he’s been able to overcome his coach at times. If they can replace Scott’s production and get back to good D, they’ll mess up someone’s season for sure.

Most excited to watch Mallet play. Not sure why, but to me, he’s the most exciting player to watch in the SEC. At least for now, as I hope Debose at UF comes into the converstion in the Harvin mold, but he’s a freshman and unproven quantity. I know Ingram and TR at Bama, Green at UGA, and some other players are phenoms, but there’s something with Mallet that has me impressed every time he makes a crazy out of this world throw and carries a team with not a ton of firepower. Will be interested to see him to respond to the expectations.

Let’s kick it off already…

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
10:01 am

DawgByte,
Your points above may be true, but that doesn’t change the fact that the team took care of business week in/week out and managed to go undefeated. No matter how toguh or easy your schedule is, that’s really hard to do in the SEC. That’s why I am really impressed with what Saban’s done over at Bama the past couple fo years.

Gen Neyland

August 30th, 2010
10:02 am

Spike and Word Police : Iz u too giys GT fanns. Uze fellars gotz a ceen i four spelin..?

To not have a measure of respect, no matter your loyalties, for what CER was and what he did during his coaching career is almost anti-American. Well, forget the almost part…

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
10:02 am

I don’t remember that, DawgByte. If that was the case, it was dismissed by the following three years when UGA won 10,11, and 10 games.

I do remember the BYU team of ‘84 winning the Nat Title in the Holiday Bowl being snickered at.

Ghost of Erk

August 30th, 2010
10:03 am

No national champion has to apologize for anything. Except for maybe LSU.

Lewis Grizzard

August 30th, 2010
10:06 am

CuttySark, Sorry, but Paul Johnson would need both hands to carry Coach Russell’s jock.

G

August 30th, 2010
10:10 am

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
10:17 am

Gen Neyland agree about Erk..and the forgot almost comment…..outstanding !

CharlotteGator

August 30th, 2010
10:18 am

Sign #437 that college football is upon us:

Watched a DVR’d copy of the UF FSU game from last year and as fun as that game was for Gator fans, I couldn’t enjoy it as I was reminded how much I dislike the Lundquist and Danielson combo. Absolutely terrible. They’re in Madden territory now where I need to watch the game on mute and find some other source for audio. HD is making that tough though as the HD video feed is typically 3-4 seconds behind.

JB

August 30th, 2010
10:18 am

Paul Johnson is a fine coach. He’s got an uphill battle taking Tech to the promise land because of Defense. You need studs and lot’s of them, and Tech always seems to have a couple starting on D, that won’t do it. Georgia beat Tech year ( and a pretty average Georgia team) not so much Georgia’s D could not stop Tech, but because Tech’s D didn’t have a prayer to stop Georgia. Again, a very Average Georgia team. But related to this Article, you can see some ERK traits in the guy.

RxDawg

August 30th, 2010
10:23 am

“and it is unfortunate thet he was pushed out at GSU as their head coach.”

Cutty…..WTH are you talking about? He was winning national championships, Southern didn’t want him to go anywhere.

producewiz

August 30th, 2010
10:26 am

Happily for Georgia’s opponents,not having Irk as coach in waiting was the best thing for every S>E.C. opponent. Havn’t recovered yet.

SEC FAN

August 30th, 2010
10:36 am

The ones that miss Erk the most are the ones that saw him coach. UGA could really use him now.

RxDawg

August 30th, 2010
10:38 am

DawgByte
August 30th, 2010
9:56 am

The NCAA video games beg to differ. Just sayin..

S FL Chapter of the Bulldog Nation

August 30th, 2010
10:43 am

Guy….go jump on a sword!!! If that doesn’t work then roll over on a hand grenade!!! If that doesn’t work try swallowing RAID or Bleach….

Sat in Athens is right around the corner baby!!!! Let’s get this party started!!!! GO DAWGS!!!!

Nurse Ratchet

August 30th, 2010
10:45 am

“Look at the red panties falling from the sky”.

Bryant

August 30th, 2010
10:49 am

In 1976 I came to Athens to see the Bama game. Was on the sidewalk beside the stadium when a whiskey bottle from the rr tracks bounced off the top of the Bama bus and hit me in the head 17 stitches later I made it back before the start of second qtr. UGA completely dominated my beloved Crimson Tide that day like no one had in years. You have to remember we lost only like 10 games over a 8 or 9 year period in the 70’s and were never dominated like that game. Still do not have any hard feelings toward the rr track people. They were crazy!! RTR

Erkseagle

August 30th, 2010
10:58 am

I’ve had the pleasure of both watching Erk coach from the tracks, and watching him at GSU. He is greatly missed by old time fans at Georgia Southern (and UGA). I wish he was still with us to watch the restart of the TO at GSU.

GO EAGLES!

JB

August 30th, 2010
10:59 am

Back when Dooley and Erk roamed the sidelines in the 10 game per year era, Georgia won 8 or 9 every year, and when we lost, it was nail biter, not a blow out. Even a young Saban learned how to win.
Great defense and a clock killing ball control offense. Dooley was great at it and Erk did his part, Georgia won a ton of 17-10 games. Boring, but effective.

Erk's Legacy

August 30th, 2010
11:00 am

To the brilliant poster What Dog, who slammed this article and pumped up his beloved Auburn Tigers…you may want to check you history. Erk graduated from Auburn and was the school’s last 4 sport letterman. You may want to support your school’s famous alumni…just like a good Georgia fan can show admiration for Pat Dye…a great Georgia player!

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
11:01 am

Bryant I was on the tracks that day..but I did NOT throw a whiskey bottle.I did catch a beer can on the shoulder right after kick off it was a crazy day. It was the first shut out of a Bama team in quite a while.

JB

August 30th, 2010
11:02 am

Nurse……we are glad they were panties, red, and off a women…………….Now, go back to the protractor and work out some problems and dream about what most Tech men do…………………………………….seeing some red panties on…..or off a women…LOL

Hike !!

August 30th, 2010
11:07 am

As a Ga Southern Grad, I think we got the best Erk had to offer. Just think of what he could have done as UGA’s head coach. Dooley’s 3 yards and a cloud of dust offenses could never have won a lot of those close games without Erk’s Junkyard Dogs.
I wonder if that caused Dooley not to hire him; maybe afraid he would “show him up”.

Dirk as in Erk

August 30th, 2010
11:07 am

Erk Russell was an honest gentleman with genuine integrity.

Unfortunately there is no one in the athletic department at UGA today with those characteristics. Erk would roll over in his grave if he knew what was happening at UGA today, with the arrests of dozens of players, the illiteracy, and the red panties.

btgt69

August 30th, 2010
11:08 am

Yes I am A GT fanatic. I really love Erk’s letter;; what a great guy eventho he was a big factor in defeating my beloved yeller jakits. Let’s all pray for a sucessful year for our favorite teams and for no serious injuries to the players or over reactionary fans. College sports are the greatest !

Dink

August 30th, 2010
11:13 am

Whenever I think of Coach Russell I think of that T-shirt he wore.

Go Dawgs!

Bryant

August 30th, 2010
11:14 am

Hey how2fish was it like that every Sat. or was that day special? The Fri. night before the game our players had to pull the mattresses into the hallway of the hotel to try and sleep. Athens was nuts the entire week-end.

SHERWOOD SPARKS

August 30th, 2010
11:15 am

ERK MAY NOT HAVE BEEN PUSHED OUT AT GSU BUT HIS SON RUSTY WAS. WHERE IS RUSTY NOW?

WonderDawg

August 30th, 2010
11:16 am

Bryant, my best friend (a Tech student) was at that game and he had, over the years had gone to bowl games and multiple GA-UF games in Jax, but he said that when UGA stopped Bama on a 4th down play, it was the loudest crowd-roar he had ever heard.

Dumbo

August 30th, 2010
11:24 am

Tony B…..I was one of those very hung over kids who spent Friday Oct 1, 1976 up on the tracks dodging rain and remembers at about 6:30 am Saturday a black 4 door drives up, a big old bald headed man gets out and starts yelling at us to get up and get ready cause we were gonna pound Bama…and UGA did 21 -0 over ole Bear his self..and that old bald head was none other than Erk Russell…now that was a man’s man!

cantondawg

August 30th, 2010
11:29 am

Cuttysark,

Where do you get that Erk was forced out at GSU. I was a member of the 1988-1989 teams at GSU. In 1988, Coach Russell was definitely offered the job at UGA. He was 63 at the time and stated that he wasn’t willing to make a long term commitment to anyone not even his wife. The next year we went 15-0 and Erk retired and was definitely not forced out. If Erk would have been younger he would have taken the UGA job in an heartbeat. However, you could tell that his knees and health were beginning to take a toll on him in 1989 and i’m sure he felt that it would be wrong to take the job at UGA and then have them looking again in 2-3 years.

kauai dawg

August 30th, 2010
11:33 am

GREAT article and run down memory lane.

If I remember correctly, speakign of troubled players, Georgia did have some players being punished that summer. I think Scott Woerner was one of them. He and several others had to stay around campus and cut grass, pull weeds etc…

Erk was a treasure and awesome motivator. GATA was an “Erk”ism !

Go DAWGS! 30-24

cantondawg

August 30th, 2010
11:33 am

Tony,

I played for Erk on the his final two teams at GSU. The thing that i remember most is how you felt that he held this magical power to make you better than what you were. At GSU, we would always be smaller than everyone else but Coach Russell used that as motivation by saying “Runts have to try harder”. We expected to win every game because of Coach Russell. Even when we played Florida State we expected to win and almost beat them in 1988. We were leading 10-7 in the 4th quarter before they came back to win 28-10.

Nurse Rachet

August 30th, 2010
11:34 am

Awwwww JB- that was just another red letter classy day for the dawgs. One to be cherished.

UGA #1 FULMER CUP Champs !!!!!!!!!!

August 30th, 2010
11:35 am

As Tony Said:

“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.”

All thr proof you need that SEC Integrity & Credibility are
just “circling the bowl” on the way down.

BuzzKill

August 30th, 2010
11:37 am

After reading Tony’s article…

Is there ANY remaining doubt that Tony is a COMPLETE UGAG-SEC Homer??

Dawgsfan82

August 30th, 2010
11:38 am

To honor “THE RAILROAD TRACK CROWD” AND Coach Russell, UGA should install a “Tran Whistle” to sound everytime the Dawgs enters Sanford Stadium or make a great play. That should get the crowd and Dawgs fired up. Why not, other schools do similar things from sirens to fireworks. “Hey What’s That Coming Down The Tracks” the “Bulldawgs Express”

Go Dawgs!

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
11:38 am

3 days till CarolinaE kicks off against South Miss and 5 days till the big day. Great letter from Erk and I don’t care who you’re a fan of. It gets your juices going. If not you may want to check and see if you have a pulse.

jumbeaux, beast, others,

In regards to the ESPN commentators I like Corso, Herbstreet, and Mark May. They all have reasonable things to say. Holtz lets his personal feelings influence him too much and sometimes looks like an azz like when he picked ND to win the bcs title last year. When they make their picks like Kirk picking OSU to win it all sometimes they are just being homers to stir the pot and create interest and they have to do that. But when they analyze a game like at pregame or at halftime they are usually spot on except for Lou drinking kool aid of his personal favorite.

The game announcers of ESPN I’m fine with. But definitely not impressed with some of their bomb throwers like Jim Rome and Colin Cowherd. I put these guys of the same ilk as Finebaum. They just have a bigger barrel of ink from which to sling mud. These 2 guys disgust me.

Tech Sucks

August 30th, 2010
11:38 am

David Granger

August 30th, 2010
11:40 am

Erk was a great one…best defensive coordinator EVER.
Used to occasionally be one of the Railroad Track Crowd myself…we should get T-shirts made to wear to the games…and it was a hoot.
Funny thing was, occasionally Southern Railway would route a train through Athens on a Saturday afternoon, and it would always break down on the tracks. And the only way to repair it…apparently…was for the engineer, conductor, and brakemen (plus any other RR personnel) to climb up on top of one of the boxcars, grill hot dogs and hamburgers over a charcoal grill, and watch the game in those folding aluminum lawn chairs. They’d even let some of us climb up there, or open the boxcar door and let fans sit in the doorway. (Athens Banner-Herald ran a big picture of that one Sunday.) Simpler, less-complicated era, I guess. Do something like that nowadays, you’d risk being sued all to hell and back.

Wash-out Early

August 30th, 2010
11:40 am

“I HIT & RUN…THIS STATE”

U – U
G – Get
A – Arrested

Greg

August 30th, 2010
11:42 am

Damon Evans

August 30th, 2010
11:42 am

“FINISH THE DRINK”

UGA Insider

August 30th, 2010
11:43 am

Other insiders are telling me that Steve Spurrier is really worried about his team on 9-11. His biggest worry other than his pathetic offensive line is the fact that the game is being played at noon instead of late afternoon. Plus he has no idea what Grantham is going to do. He knows Columbia will be hot and the fans will be hungover and uninterested. Look for an easy UGA win and a big confidence builder for Murray. I’m starting to think UGA will be undefeated at the UF game. I’m not making any predictions after that but look for CMR to have a big big year. Then a #1 ranking going into the season next year which could be bad.