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

Will2be

August 30th, 2010
11:47 am

Hey Tide Rising. I saw on “Crimson Tide” the other night a player said that Alabama fans were “crazy”. I thought about you.

MURPHY

August 30th, 2010
11:48 am

Thanks Tony! I have tears in my eye’s. Maybe the famed Junkyard D will show back up this year. Man wouldnt that make Erk proud!!!!

StingerSplash

August 30th, 2010
11:52 am

Tony,

Ask Jeff Dantzler what it was like getting his tail kicked in tennis by Erk.
I miss Erk.
Gettin’ dusty in here again ….

DDPO

August 30th, 2010
11:53 am

So, Richt is better than Bear Bryant?

You learn something new every day…

#1 BAMA FAN

August 30th, 2010
11:54 am

Erk was a great motivator and coach. He was a man’s man and he was my favorite DAWG. If he was on the present coaching staff I couls hear me say ” run the damn ball, it ain’t heavy. Boy, I am ready for some CFB. RTR

Sussex Club Apartments

August 30th, 2010
11:57 am

`
I remember driving my motorcycle up to the Railroad Tracks to watch a game in 1973.
Those were cool times in Athens.

Everybody picked up their trash back then.

hitsalot

August 30th, 2010
11:58 am

Perhaps one of the greatest travesties surrounding college football is the fact that Erk Russell is NOT in the College Football Hall of Fame due to an obscure rule stating that a coach- any coach- must be a head coach for at least 10 years to be eligible for consideration.

Sorry folks, it ain’t a Hall of fame if Erk Russell ain’t in it…

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
12:02 pm

Will2be,

No. I’m just loco.

Mobile Dawg

August 30th, 2010
12:08 pm

Kauai, greetings. Can you imagine the flack those guys would have taken today. I hesitate to even speculate what fate they might face today….Sic’em Dawgs. Hope Erk and Lewis enjoy another “special” season….

Beautiful Eagle Creek

August 30th, 2010
12:18 pm

`
There will never be another ERK Russell.

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
12:20 pm

Bryant every one I went to was insane, and frankly back then that was saying something. At times it was like going to an outdoor festival and having a football game break out!! And yes even then there were red panties falling from the sky!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

August 30th, 2010
12:23 pm

You can bet old Erk wouldn’t have allowed a little dog’s rump to be painted.

1980!

August 30th, 2010
12:25 pm

Last title: 30 years ago! Those were the days—buck and herschel, where are you?

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
12:27 pm

UGA Insider I have to with respect disagree, hungover or not the USC fans will not be disinterested they are some of the best fans in the SEC, trust me I have a daughter who is a alum. 9-3 or 1-11 they will show up and bring the passion. This will be a dawg fight from the opening kickoff just like always..I hope your right about the rest ! Go Dogs !

HugoStiglitz

August 30th, 2010
12:28 pm

Am I the only person who has never heard of Erk Russell until this blog?

Lane Kiffin

August 30th, 2010
12:29 pm

3 days til kickoff and this is what Barnhardt wants to write about. Forget reading anymore love letters to THuga and bammer.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
12:38 pm

WonderDawg, Dogdom & Shut Up:

Remember, the blog’s title is Mr. College Football.
and regarding the Railroad Track Crowd: One of its “proud” members must have been in Jacksonville in the late 70’s, when a bottle sailed out of the crowd at the UF band, breaking a member’s instrument in half!
HOW in the world are these rowdy idiots seen as a fond memory of a by-gone era?!!
As many Dawg bloggers are fond of casting aspersions on UF’s classiness (or lack thereof), I suggest you imortalize more admirable behavior..

eagledawg

August 30th, 2010
12:41 pm

I miss Erk as well. Georgia’s loss was our gain at Georgia Southern when he arrived in Statesboro to start a football program. He had to go across the street to K-Mart to buy our first football.

Simple Simon

August 30th, 2010
12:41 pm

Tony-

You should be upbeat about Georgia and Mark Richt. Thanks for positing a somewhat positive article.

If I told you Richt crushed Bear Bryant head to head comparing 1st 9 years, would you believe it?

Richt’s 1st 9 years vs. Bear Bryant’s 1st 9 Years:

Win %:
Bear- .690
Richt- .769

Top 10 Finishes
Bear- 1
Richt- 6

Top 3 Finishes
Bear- 1
Richt- 2

National Championships
Bear- 1
Richt-0

jumbeauxtiger

August 30th, 2010
12:42 pm

Tide Rising,

I like Herbstreit and May too. I’d have to throw in Rod Gilmore, Chris Speilman(awesome LB at Ohio St), Todd Blackledge & Craig James.

Actually I like the new Thursday night crew they started last season of Chris Fowler, James and Jesse Palmer. I believe Rece Davis is replacing Fowler on Thursday nights. He’s good too, even if he’s from Alabama :)

Courso is entertaining but I don’t like Holtz. I can’t stand the Dr. Lou segment.

Blackledge and others from ESPN were sitting next to us at a restaurant in BR the night before LSU played Auburn in 2007. He turned around and started talking to my son, who was 9 at the time about football. Blackledge is a really nice guy.

Simple Simon

August 30th, 2010
12:43 pm

Tony-

I know you’re a bit of a Sbana fan, so I thought you’d appreciate how Saban comapres with Richt, Richt simply blows him away when comparing 1st 9 seasons.

Let’s compare Saban’s 1st 9 years as a head coach to Richt’s 1st 9 years as a Head Coach.

Win %
Saban .638
Richt .769

Top 10 Finishes
Saban 1
Richt 6

Top 3 Finishes
Saban 0
Richt 2

Could it be that Saban is overhyped a bit, and perhaps Richt is underhyped?

Bob in Buford

August 30th, 2010
12:45 pm

This is the Atlanta paper, distributed in the state of Georgia. florida fans, vol fans etc., go online and read your own newspaper if you don’t want to hear about the Dawgs.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
12:49 pm

Hey, Bob, I’ve lived here (and paid taxes here) for 23+ years.
Where do you get off telling me (or anyone else, for that matter) where I can contribute and where I cannot?

Jambi

August 30th, 2010
12:54 pm

1980…..one of the sorriest so-called “national champion” teams ever………Pitt and FSU would’ve killed UGA that year easily.

Bob

August 30th, 2010
12:56 pm

1980 was a special year. My Dad and I saw Hershall run over Bill Bates from the upper deck of Neyland. Riding back from Knoxville after the game we had no idea of how great the season would turn out. We figured 3 or 4 loses and maybe a bid to the Peach Bowl. We had season tickets but watched the first half of the Georgia Tech game from the tressle for the last game seen from there. Now that was a rough crowd.

I will never forget the feeling of rushing the Superdome field when we finally won the title. We tore down one of the goal post but the police managed to keep the crowd off the other one.

poopdawg

August 30th, 2010
12:58 pm

G8R, Contribute?

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
12:59 pm

CharlotteGator, I have to agree with you on the Verne and Gary team calling games. They get stuck on a story line and beat it like a dead horse. Then they keep beating.

DDPO

August 30th, 2010
1:00 pm

how2fish:

The same passionate group that was at the Kentucky game last season? The same fans who booed and threw cups at their own players after getting the smack layed down upon them?

WE (HIT AND) RUN THIS STATE!!!!!

August 30th, 2010
1:01 pm

30-24 all year long Nerds. It does not matter how many of our players get arrested, how much our fans trash our own campus, or how many empty P.E. degrees our players get. We are going to beat UT and UK this year and reclaim our rightful spot behind UF as #2 team in the SEC east. You can chalk that one up!

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
1:01 pm

G8R GRAD to you its a bygone era..to many of us it fond memories of our youth. If you don’t like it simply don’t read it you have every right to make comments and we have every right to disagree..I mean the article was entitled ” I miss Erk ” did you miss that part?

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:02 pm

poop:

Are you in any way condoning or celebrating heaving a 10-14oz. glass bottle (and, apparently according to Coach Bryant, ROCKS) at unsuspecting and unprotected victims?

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
1:04 pm

Jumbeaux,

I have to say that out of all those ESPN game day announcers I like every single one of them and especially Todd Blackledge. Plus we had some great games against Blackledge when he was at Penn State. He has always been nothing but classy towards us.

As for Dr. Lou I always thought I was the only person that hated the Dr. Lou segment with a passion. I just don’t think much of Lou Holtz and I hate to say this bout the man but I think he’s something of a fraud- it seems as if almost every program he ever left went on serious probation within a year or 2 of him leaving for things that occurred on his watch. When someone was asking him about the problems at S. Carolina his last year and the NCAA allegations he got all defensive and changed the subject and started talking about the Bama probation instead of addressing the Carolina question. Totally classless but that’s just 1 reason why I’m not a Holtz fan.

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
1:06 pm

My seasonal anxiety is at its peak. THIS freaking Saturday folks! Noon time! We will find out what these teams are made up. Okay maybe not this Saturday but the following Saturday when we play SC. So here’s to not losing this weekend!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:07 pm

how:

“Fond memories?”
Are you kidding?
Overturning a guest team’s bus?
Throwing rocks & bottles?
Hell, they’d be arrested and thrown to the proverbial Dawgs today!
That it took place 30 years does not excuse its inappropraiteness or forgivability.

Mike

August 30th, 2010
1:11 pm

Tony,

My Dad was a high school football coach at Sylvan Hills High School back in the 50’s and early 60’s when Erk Russell coached at Grady. Sylvan and Grady had some great games with Sylvan usually on the winning side. Unfortunately, Dad could not beat Northside and North Fulton, two teams that Erk usually won, so go figure. Dad and Erk were good friends and my remembrances of them as a child was that these were two men I would have loved to play for. I saw Erk on campus at UGA a couple of times while a student there in the 70’s and he was quite a guy!

UGAlien

August 30th, 2010
1:12 pm

CharlotteGator, please refrain from soliloquies in the future. Jesus… 3 pages on the iPhone.

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
1:13 pm

DDPO I don’t know I wasn’t there last year..newsflash a lot of SEC teams act that way when their teams implode only someone who hasn’t followed SEC football for long won’t admit that. Did that team deserve to get booed that day..after watching it on replay I’d say yeah that they did.If the tracks were still occupied I’m sure they would have lead the boos..it happened in the 70’s a couple of times when the team self-destructed…I do remember something that sounded a lot like boos in the Swamp when they lost to that Miss team. I’ve been at the Iron Bowl and seen Bama and Auburn fans giving their teams a piece of their minds…and anyone ever met a patient Vol fan..I promise I was born in TN and I haven’t. Passion drives college football and while we all want to cheer our teams..sometimes a boo is a lot more deserving of the effort being given.

GSU fan

August 30th, 2010
1:16 pm

I met Erk a few times on GSU campus. He was always a class act. I’m glad he was able to start GSU’s program, because his attitude and class has a much better chance of being remembered here than at UGA. For those who wonder why he didn’t finish his career at UGA, he was offered the Head Coaching gig but turned it down (or at least that is what Erk himself said in his autobiography). His “Do Right” motto was passed on to other coaches, such as Paul Johnson (who is obviously Ga. Tech now), Mike Sewak (also at Tech) and Jeff Monken (now back at GSU) – so his legacy will be passed on.

Alphare

August 30th, 2010
1:16 pm

I for one don’t believe Lynn Turner killer 2 men. Didn’t seem to have direct evidence, the only hard evidence is she was involved with both men.

Is this the right place to post?

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:18 pm

Alpha:

Didn’t she just die in jail?
I wonder if her coffee tasted “funny” this morning?

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
1:19 pm

G8R GRAD name one bus that ever got turned over? And no one said throwing bottles was a good thing. And anyone caught throwing bottles etc was arrested. Now please tell us that a Gator has never done anything like that in the past. But yes they were very fond memories for me just like jorts and mullets are I’m sure for you.

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
1:21 pm

G8R GRAD,

I was kinda thinking the same thing but wasn’t going to say anything since everyone seemed to think it was funny to thrown rocks and bottles at opposing players and fans. Bryant the poster on here earlier said he got hit with a whiskey bottle that bounced off the top of the Bama bus and hit him in the forehead and gave him 17 stitches. But he did get back in time for the 2nd qtr. He had no ill feelings toward dawg fans despite that. Not sure I’ld be able to say the same thing if someone threw a bottle that opened me up for 17 stitches. In a sick sort of way its kinda funny but if the bottle had landed a few inches lower and some glass had taken out an eye it wouldn’t be funny at all.

Alphare

August 30th, 2010
1:22 pm

Yes, headline news on ajc.com. She died too young, feel sad for her.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:24 pm

how:

” . . name one bus that ever got turned over?”
HOW should I know, but did you READ the letter above?!!

” . . they were very fond memories for me just like jorts and mullets are I’m sure for you.”

Brilliant retort, just brilliant.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:26 pm

Tide:

I’m certain there are equally horrific examples of bad Gator or Tide fans’ behavior, but for the life of me, I haven’t heard them nor would I celebrate them as “fond memories of my youth.”

Dawgdom

August 30th, 2010
1:27 pm

Simple Simon, GOOD STUFF!

tiger7_88

August 30th, 2010
1:27 pm

Erk Russell: Auburn Man.

Of course.

bank walker

August 30th, 2010
1:28 pm

Oh hush gatorgrab, and stop being a wimp. You sissy chumps make me want to puke. They were having a little fun. They could have threw the dam bottle back. Now get back on your mom’s tit.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:28 pm

Oh, and Tide:

If some jacka$$ opened up a 17 stitch gash on me ANYWHERE, I’d burn the place to the ground!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:29 pm

bank:

Such tolerance, sympathy and insight is inspiring.