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

egeagle

August 30th, 2010
3:30 pm

Tony, I’m sure you’ve tuned out by now, but as good as your Southern football book was, your omission of Erk as a great coach still puzzles me, and you even credited him for helping you with stories and anecdotes. As GSU fans, I and many others have t-shirts with a list of Erkisms. That hall stuff is a travesty; Erk deserves to be there. I was there when Erk cam to the Boro and have enjoyed the ride since, but it comes from having Coach come by and thank us for watching practice in ‘81 or having a kind word or howdy when he came out of Johnson’s with his tall Bud and cigar after practice every day. PJ learned from him, and the stories from Roc and cantondawg are true. Ga people love Erk, but GSU people ADORE Erk, to quote the late Frank Inman. I guarantee you I’ll rub that bald head on that bust in the corner of Paulson Stadium this Saturday.
The other thing I miss about the beginning of football season is hearing Larry say, “Get the picture” That was when the season was really on.
Go Eagles, Go Dawgs, Go Falcons!
Time to load it up and GO

Tigers34

August 30th, 2010
3:31 pm

My grandfather would tell me stories about him while he was at Auburn. Erk was a great man!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
3:33 pm

Even though UGA still hasn’t sold out its opener, don’t feel bad.
Jimbo Fisher’s ‘Noles still have 15,000 available in Doak Campbell’s opener!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
3:36 pm

Let’s not be too dramatic Tide, as I understand things he suffered partial paralysis and starting with pneumonia, his organs slowly shut down.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
3:39 pm

G8R GRAD,
Are you serious about the Noles having 15,000 unsold seats? Had not heard that.

bigcalidawg

August 30th, 2010
3:39 pm

Oh Schnapple!

Where’s my helmet. It’s time to go hurt it…………

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
3:41 pm

Tide,
I read that story and could hardly believe it. Didn’t know that he had passed away. Pretty sad story.

David Pitman

August 30th, 2010
3:41 pm

As a GSU alumni, season ticket holder, and GSU Athletic Foundation board member, I worship Erk Russell. Met him numerous times in meetings, fund raisers, etc. Have a cousin that was a trainer for him when he coached at Auburn. He built the undisputed best 1-AA program from scratch. The greatest motivator ever! Look where we are the last four years since his assistants, that became our head coach, moved on.
Trivia Fact: The only four sport letter winner at Auburn.
War Eagle! Go Eagles!

bigcalidawg

August 30th, 2010
3:45 pm

Greenville Dawg……dang that’s cool…you were there……

Mobile Dawg “SPEAK”

That Holtz gentleman needs to read books to preschool children and call it a day.

Nurse Rachet

August 30th, 2010
3:46 pm

Simple Simon And what has Richt won???? How many NC’s??? your stats mean nothing

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
3:47 pm

G8R GRAD and Beast,

I didn’t read the story. I just heard it on the radio that he died from an hour long attack from a goat a week ago. It does make sense obviously that the news headline is going to sensationalize it. They sensationalize everything. From time to time I needle some of my UGA friends about the fact that Georgia initially had a goat as a mascot. Apparently those critters can be pretty mean. Maybe the Navy mascot and maybe the original dawg fans who chose the goat know something we don’t know about the ferocity of a pissed off billy goat.

gcs

August 30th, 2010
3:48 pm

So sad he never got to be head coach at UGA.

.

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
3:49 pm

Nurse Ratchet,

Simple Simon aka Patrick Sulley and about 100 other aliases posts the same stuff everyday in his Richt worship. Just ignore him and don’t argue with him.

My ode to Simple Simon :Never argue with an idiot. He’ll only drag you down to his level and then beat you with experience.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
3:50 pm

TopShelfDore

August 30th, 2010
3:51 pm

Thanks, Tony…another good one…stirring up memories past…I can’t believe it’s been 30 years…Erik is one of a kind just like Munson and Vince Dooley…I’m a Commodore first but a Georgia Bulldog second and always will be…so many great memories ‘tween the hedges and you’ve started me down Memory Lane again…God Bless you Tony and God Bless the Bulldogs and Coach Richt…

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
3:53 pm

Tide & Beast:

Apparently, the pneumonia started the proverbial domino effect by dehydrating the 88 year-old and his kidneys shut down, then his liver, etc.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:04 pm

Tide:

Is that really true?
The UGA mascot used to be A GOAT? ! ! !

:D

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
4:06 pm

G8R Grad and Tide,
I just can’t get over the fact that the poor man lived 80+ years enduring everything that life threw at him and met his demise in his own yard by being attacked by a goat. No one would ever dream of going out like that. Truly a sad story.

Lifelong Dawg

August 30th, 2010
4:08 pm

All due respect to Coach Russell…but I’ve never, for the life of me, understood what, exactly, is so great about that letter. Very nice that he acknowledges and thanks a group of fans, but beyond that, it’s fairly innocuous at best. Break it down and it becomes:

“Dear [group of fans] for [school] that congregate [place]. We love when you cheer for us and we’ll try out best to win. It’s also nice when [school] beats [opposing school] and we go [local establishment].”

Wow. Awe-inspiring.

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:09 pm

G8R GRAD,

I sh&t you not. Its true that the origianal Georgia mascot was a goat. Hell Nebraska used to be called the bugeaters, Delaware is still called the fighting blue hens, UC-irvine or UC- Santa Barbara one of them is called the banana slugs. Lotta funny mascots in the NCAA.

I must now apologize to the dawg fans. I didn’t mean to inadvertently give you more ammo to rag the dawg fans with. Or did I?

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
4:09 pm

G8R GRAD,
Don’t make fun. Male goats are pretty darned mean. My aunt had one when I was a little kid and that thing would certainly let us kids know when we had stepped into his territory. You were lucky to get away with him chasing you. If he caught up with you it was like getting hit by a middle linebacker!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:10 pm

Life:

Such a cynic at such a young age.

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
4:11 pm

G8R GRAD, of course it is true. Every school that has played football before 1990 at one point had a goat as a mascot. Being a Florida fan you might not know that.

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
4:12 pm

gdawginkalazoo,
I gotta admit, that’s a good one.

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
4:12 pm

Tide Rising, no problem, we didn’t mind the goat. It beats a detergent box and roll of toilet paper.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:12 pm

Tide:

It’s all good.
That trump card will be held up my sleeve until desperate.

Beast:

Didn’t mean to make light.
Apologies.
Imagine how bad his neighbor feels (it was HIS goat).

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:13 pm

Beast,

I didn’t read the story. Like I said I just heard the sensationalized version on the news. Did he do something to piss the goat off? Or was it the rutting season or something like that and the goat just got ornery and attacked him out of territoriality? I just can’t imagine being under siege to a goat for an hour long attack. If he was 88 I imagine it was pretty terrifying given that he was probably a very frail man and defenseless. It is pretty sad when you think about it.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:13 pm

Is anyone aware of any skelton mascots in UF’s closet?

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:14 pm

gdawginkalamazoo,

But that toilet paper comes in handy in an emergency.

Mobile Dawg

August 30th, 2010
4:15 pm

Cali, I’m not sure I would want a school age child influenced by Holtz at this point.

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
4:16 pm

Tide Rising, We wanted to have a detergent box and roll of toilet paper as a mascot but that was taken, hence the goat.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:16 pm

Wow, Beast. Judging from your post preceeding gdawg’s, you must be clairvoyant!

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:16 pm

G8R GRAD,

The only skeleton I can think of is that according to your own media guide from a couple years ago you guys are actually crocodiles and not alligators judging by the pic of the croc on the cover.

kinggator

August 30th, 2010
4:16 pm

I recently attended my 30 yr high school reunion, and in the process ran into a player from that ‘80 recruiting class with Herschel. When I asked my classmate, and former UGA player from that class what had happened to UGA since hwas there, he said, “the players have lost their toughness”. He said that in his days at UGA the coaches demanded a business approach on the field, and sad to say, it does appear that the coaches from that ‘80 era demanded excellence from the team and got it!! So, your article here does seem to validate the word out there on the street from the former players of these coaches

CrimsonPride

August 30th, 2010
4:17 pm

dawginlex

smack-talk is ok no matter what your team, but some of your recent posts like these listed below are way over the line.

The education of Georgia’s starting quarterback continues
August 26, 2010, by Tim Tucker

***All time hater, You hate humping?

***You must be a gay little tech nancy boy who has never gotten any

***Hater is a gay nancy boy who dreams of humping something other than a blow up doll.

***how is your blow up doll collection going?
***figured out all the “parts”?

that aint the kind of stuff thats appropriate on an unrestricted blog

very un-cool dude

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:17 pm

Trumped only by your misspelling, Tide!

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
4:18 pm

Tide, that first comment took a while to post sorry for the duplicate. I bet it would come in handy in a Beijing traffice jam. Or race day at Talledega on I-20.

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:19 pm

gdawginkalamazoo,

You’re always welcome to borrow some detergent when you need to wash the tobacco juice out of your t shirts or some toilet paper when you need to….well, never mind.

gt

August 30th, 2010
4:19 pm

Tony the homer, that little history lesson should depress your polyester college football team. The 1980 team was real, the teams before it were real, your teams now have the press paid off, the players playing too much for the crowd and future paychecks, what happens on that field doesn’t even effect the players on the bench now days more less the people on the tracks. The Alabamas and Floridas are far enough away from the city lights to keep the corn feed boys attention, Georgia is made up of 22 Dion Sanders, lots of flash but no national championship since 1980. Since then Alabama, LSU, Florida and Tennessee have all won with less talent, Auburn should have. Now that is what gets you motivated. Bring on the season!!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:20 pm

” . . or some toilet paper when . . .” UF beats the crap out of UGA!

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:22 pm

gdawginkalamazoo,

I figure that roll of tp would come in at 500 yen for that 4 week traffic jam on the way to bejing. Is that what it is? 4 weeks or is it longer? You can’t borrow any detergent from us on race day in Talladega. We need it then for our own tobacco juice on our t shirts. And on our women’s bras.

Blackberry Cobbler

August 30th, 2010
4:24 pm

Erk Russell was one of the “old breed” sytle coaching. None of that namby-pamby wuss stuff like CMR. Todays UGA players lack discipline and they lack strong leadership from the coaches. They are soft peddled too much. They have no fear or respect for coaches. Do you think for one minute any player would dare get cross ways with Erk? I don’t think so. CMR? They don’t care what CMR says or thinks- he doesn’t command the same respect or fear.

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:25 pm

“And on our women’s bras.”

LM ( ! ) O!

:D

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
4:25 pm

G8R GRAD, there you go that 4:20 PM post is the “All State Good Hands” call of the day!

gdawginkalamazoo

August 30th, 2010
4:26 pm

Tide, when did you let your women start wearing bras?

Beast from the East

August 30th, 2010
4:26 pm

Good one, Tide.
Nice chattin’ with you guys. Have a great evening!

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:26 pm

BTW, gdawg:

How long you been in Meeeshigan?

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:27 pm

G8R GRAD

August 30th, 2010
4:30 pm

gdawg:

Re: my 4:20 post.
Sorry, had to.
It stems from a deep-seated fear of losing to the Bulldogs this year.
Good luck to you guys.

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:30 pm

gdawginkalamazoo,

Oh, I don’t know. Usually when they hit 12 or 13. Somewhere round there.