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

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
1:29 pm

How2fart,

Sorry but I just couldn’t resist since it was so funny the other day. We all got individual fans that do crap like that and I guarantee that there are Bama fans who’ve done the same crap. I think what G8R GRAD is saying is that the impression he and I are getting from this board is that it was funny to UGA people on this board that an entire group of their fan base instead of isolated individuals was doing stuff like that with the rock and bottle throwing and that it was largely looked the other way by other UGA fans, Athens police, and the UGA admin. There’s a difference between individuals doing some crappy stuff here and there and the UGA family- cops, admin, etc. basically allowing a mob to do stuff like that to opposing fans and players.

Dumbo

August 30th, 2010
1:30 pm

I think Friday evening I’m gonna go over to Spankys (it was better when they was at the marina) and have a drink and toast to Coach Russell a real man’s man! SSIGator I’m coming home to SSI Friday, have your ugly Gator tail meet me at the Round-about on Demere at 6:30 Friday!

The Jailhouse Dawgs

August 30th, 2010
1:31 pm

We R-U-I-N This State

Helmet Head on riding the Short Bus

August 30th, 2010
1:31 pm

Great Article Tony, Coach Russell was a fine man first, a great father and his sons live his legacy.

Now onto the Richt vs Bryant comparison by some embezel…

How many games did UGA win when you were a Pre-season number 1?
How many games has UGA won in the past 2 years?
How many games has UGA lost in the last 3 years?
How many times has UGA lost to Tenn, Florida, USC, Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky?

Unblinded and Truthful fans understand when our program has turned for the worst, we understand that we have coaches and staff who move on and our program changes, but it had better be for the better. The arrest on this football team has made the school a laughing joke of the Sporting News Media.

Richt has had the talent at UGA to win at least one BCS Title, how many has he won?
The arrest during Richt’s tenure is getting REAL close to his total number of WINS!

Good luck to all of our SEC Brethren…Let’s all go bowling, but the journey is going to be a fun one.

Greenville Dawg

August 30th, 2010
1:31 pm

I sat on those tracks while living in Athens waiting for my delayed entry into the navy. Lived at Riverbend apts. across the street. There was nothing greater in my life then wathcing Herchel run around the end on a pitch-out and going 65-70 yards for the TD! Thank-you for re-kindling old memories. Oh Yeah… You can whip it…Great song played every sat. morning B-4 the game!!!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:31 pm

“They could have threw [sic] the dam [sic] bottle back.”

Really?
That’s the best you can do?
WHO’S the chump here, moron?

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:33 pm

“how2fart”

:)

Gen Neyland

August 30th, 2010
1:37 pm

zoodawg : Is winning an antidote for that condition or will a kickoff suffice..? Good luck down the field, er, road this year (x-cept for one at least)…

@WreckBuZZ

August 30th, 2010
1:40 pm

I can totally respect that letter and playing for those who support you. Erk Russell was definitely a legend (so is Vince Dooley). UGA can definitely be proud of that association.

As a GT fan I’m glad to have a head coach who worked under Erk and exudes some of those same qualities of motivation.

Thanks Tony.

Paul in RDU

August 30th, 2010
1:40 pm

I understand the nostalgia for a great coach and some good times, but quite frankly drunken hooliganism is not something to be nostalgic for.

All you have to do is see where it can go. Events like this
http://football-hooligans.info/?p=453

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
1:43 pm

I AM UGAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
1:43 pm

G8R GRAD it’s called literary license Erk was using no one ever actually turned over any buses.and glad you liked the retort..I didn’t have to take long to think that one up..it just seemed so right. And boys if college fans acting badly is news to any of you I don’t think you’ve been to many games..most fans are just great but a lot of the younger fans or older ones who don’t know their limits when it comes to alcohol manage to show their butts. Tossing bottles, fists etc is bad and we all agree on that point. The fond memories have nothing to do with flying bottles cans etc….deep breaths the season is almost here.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:43 pm

On a more topical note:

UF will be lucky to get through the season with less than 3 losses (UA, UGA & FSU).
Good luck to all in the East!
And SOMEBODY (PSU, Ark., LSU & AU), PLEASE beat Alabama!

GO GATORS!

Mobile Dawg

August 30th, 2010
1:44 pm

He didn’t say there was anyone in the bus….

As for the Lou Holtz talk, way back when, I had some respect for Holtz, he was a huge motivational speaker draw. The older he’s gotten the more annoying. As for ESPN, I don’t understand their love for him, I’ve gotten to where I change the channel anytime Holtz is on.

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
1:45 pm

General Neyland, kickoff gets it in full swing, a victory just feeds it for another week. A loss dampens it. Two loses pretty much dulls it. A lose to Vandy or Kentucky kills it. Any drinks after that is just called alcoholism.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
1:45 pm

how:

Good luck to you & your Dawgs.
See you in Jacksonville!

Buzzfan®

August 30th, 2010
1:45 pm

Didn’t get to shake Erk’s hand last time I chatted with him….as he had a longneck in one hand and a fistful o’ peanuts in the other, at a wedding reception in The ‘Boro. But, this Techie still got the same huge grin and warm greeting as always. Super guy. He’s missed.

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
1:47 pm

G8R grad,

Get your knickers out of a knot. The tracks crowd were mostly harmless. They had their share of idiots just like the drunk gator moron in 1982 after we had won 44-0 and got in my face and my girlfriend’s face in the parking lot. It was taken care of and he got what he deserved.

Painting all the tracks crowd as being drunken idiots is about like the Tech folks saying all UGA grads are inbred rednecks who live in trailers and all florida fans have mullets and wear jean shorts.

The tracks were a great part of UGA football but times change. Anyone would have to admit that it was fun to guess how many drunks would pass out and roll down the hill. Anyone who says they haven’t made at least one bet with a friend on the number that would occur during the game is lying.

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
1:49 pm

to my impostor at 1:43, please don’t bring your own sexual issues to the blogs.

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
1:50 pm

G8R GRAD I think you win 2 of those 3 games but I will admit I hope it UGA that beats you. But I understand how Bama is the most likely…but I’d love to met you guys and both teams be undefeated in Jax. Tide Rising I understand how the letter might lead you to think that however I assure you the Athens police were out in force in the area. People did dumb stuff mostly they paid for it.

AltamahaDawg

August 30th, 2010
1:51 pm

Great letter, but I think he could have used a napkin doodle to motivation them to do better than the year before.

Sydney Stoltz

August 30th, 2010
1:52 pm

PERFECTION!!! Everyone needed to hear this especially on game week! SEC IS THE AWESOME!! :) hehe

Sydney Stoltz

August 30th, 2010
1:53 pm

SEC IS THE BEST + SEC IS AWESOME = SEC IS THE AWESOME….. my bad! haha

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
1:53 pm

Once again, I resort to making retarded
“sexual” related criticisms of others

I am such a doosh-bag

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
1:54 pm

1:53, i repeat, take your issues elsewhere

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
1:55 pm

Impostor,

Is that you gatorbait 17-3 or yellow fuzz or St Richt?

mexdawg

August 30th, 2010
1:57 pm

Tony great article.I was at UGA from 74-78 and a huge Erk Russel fan.What your readers may not remember is that Vince Dooley almost left UGA to coach AUB after that championship season in 1980.If Dooley had taken the AUB job Erk would have most likely been named head coach at UGA.I have always regretted he never got a shot as our head coach.I’m pretty sure he would have been a great one.Oh and by the way even thou I had a ticket I sat on the tracks for the last game,it was great you had to be there.Georgia football aint nothin like it.LET THE BIG DAWG EAT.GATA boys especially those water lizzards.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
1:59 pm

mexdawg,
That’s mud lizards to you, sir!

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
2:01 pm

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
1:59 pm

mexdawg,
That’s mud lizards to you, sir!

LMAO !!!

Rock

August 30th, 2010
2:02 pm

I was fortunate enough to play for Erk ‘84-’88. My freshman year Paul Johnson was, get this, our defensive line Coach. The following year he promoted him to OC and we won the NC. Erk was more of a father figure to me. Do Right was not our motto. That was our team rules. No joke that was our team rules. The only other guideline was 11:00 curfew. I didnt really realize at the time how special it was to be a part of those teams and coached by him. The master motivator, joke and story teller. I was in the room when he brought in some rattlesnakes in a big box. He opened the box and everyone scatterred especially the brothers. He then brought in another box right after that. He opened it and was a bunch of white powder. No one ran. He then proceeded to ask us why dont we run from this white powder? It kills more people per year than rattlesnakes do. It was Cocaine. Another time we were playing U of Montana in the playoffs and they were huge. We had to eat Dinner with them the night before the game and Coach Russell asked our All American Giff Smith to stand up and welcome them.Little did they know before the dinner he told one of our trainers who looked like the most non athletic nerdy type of little guy to stand up and act like he is Giff Smith and welcome The Montana Grizzlies to Statesboro. Lets just say the Coach for them was pissed. Erk did that because they were talking all week how they were going to beat us really bad. We ended beating them by 5 TDs. GATA

CrimsonPride

August 30th, 2010
2:04 pm

lex

many of your posts are vulgar and inappropriate on this board

better clean it up

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
2:05 pm

1:43 and 1:53 are not me. I posted others above. how were they inappropriate?

The Dude

August 30th, 2010
2:08 pm

This is not Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
2:09 pm

DawginLex,
I’d suggest reporting those posts that were not your own.

how2fish

August 30th, 2010
2:10 pm

DawginLex in CrimsonPride you may have your “person”. Rock I had heard the rattlesnake story before but honestly had a hard time believing it . Thanks for passing it on!

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
2:10 pm

Thanks beast

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
2:14 pm

Rock,
Great story, although, I’m sure that white powder was just baby powder or something like it. At least I hope it was!

DawginLex

August 30th, 2010
2:16 pm

Makes you wonder if Erk had become the head coach in Athens, Paul Johnson might have become the head coach in waiting.

We would have been running the wishbone/TO in Athens for 20 years now. GSU would have had a different set of coaches.

would all of us Dawgs feel differently about that offense if that had happened?

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
2:19 pm

DawginLex,
I’m sure that 99% of fans could care less what kind of offense or defense their team runs as long as it equates to W’s. I don’t care much for the spread, but as long as Meyer continues his winning ways, then it’s GREAT!

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
2:27 pm

Rock,

That is indeed a funny story- both the Giff story and the snakes and powder. He had a point on the powder but then he could have used a bottle of liquor 100k per year die from alcoholism or a carton of cigarettes 200k per year die from smoking.

Rock

August 30th, 2010
2:33 pm

DawginLex, your welcome, Beast yes it was real Cocaine. He had police officers escort it in. A couple more things about him. He looks like he would be a a screamer on the field at practice but he was the opposite. He Coached he didnt yell. He didnt really have to. The headbutting calmed down. However he did do it in NC game vs Furman and we when we played Florida State. He would play Tennis everyday before practice. He was very good. He lettered at Auburn. His knees were real bad but he would Wog ( that was his definition of a combination of Walking and Jogging) to the field. Heres some Erkisms:
Runts Try Harder
Courtesy Costs Nothing But Pays Big Dividends
Good things come to those who wait
Just one more time- He said it everyday before practice and after victories
When god gives you lemons make lemonade
Another day in which to excel

Erkseagle

August 30th, 2010
2:38 pm

Rock,

I’ve heard the rattlesnake story before, but never from one of the guys that was in the room. The Giff Smith story is pure Erk. I was at that Montana game. I think the score was something like 44-0! It was Montana weather in the boro that day too, cold and windy. Great story. Erk was something else.

Bryant

August 30th, 2010
2:43 pm

g8r grad I was at rhe Ga. Dome last Dec. 5th and what you got that night was way worse than the little cut on my head and I notice you have not burned down the Dome!!

Bryant

August 30th, 2010
2:45 pm

32-13 Tebow crying shut out in the second half Geez I was actually feeling sorry for you guys.

17 of 20

August 30th, 2010
2:58 pm

I wish Erk was alive today so he could see Florida beat Georgia 85% of the time for the last 20 something years.

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
3:07 pm

Sometimes you hear something so weird that has nothing to do with football that ya just gotta share it. Just heard on the news that an elderly Atlanta man just died from wounds suffered during an hour long attack from a neighbor’s goat last week. You can’t make this kinda stuff up.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
3:10 pm

Hey Bryant:

Have a good season.
See you Oct. 2nd.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
3:12 pm

Tide:

And I didn’t think his injuties were the ba-a-a-d!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
3:21 pm

Sorry.
“that b-a-a-a-d!”

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
3:24 pm

G8R GRAD,

Its sad when anyone dies but there is a bit of macabre humor to being killed in an hour long attack by a goat of all things. I think I would rather have been snapped in half by a great white shark and die immediately than be literally gored by a goat.