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.


Erskine Russell

Assistant Head Football Coach


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:

335 comments Add your comment

Tide Rising

August 30th, 2010
4:31 pm

I’m out guys. Check back with ya later.


August 30th, 2010
4:32 pm

ERK RUSSELL. What a man! What a coach! I was fortunate that I got to know him. I only knew him as a man,a friend. I was not a college football player.

I can’t believe he was at UGA 17 years and never got a head coaching job at any SEC school. How many openings must have been available during this time? Many schools made a terrible mistake not hiting ERK. Auburn included, his alma mater.By the way, there was not an opening for a head coach at UGA while Erk was there.

He would have made some major college the greatest coach in their history. Erk was the best motivator ever.

What a shame ERK had to get his only Head coaching job at lowly, crappy, ga southern. It must have weighed on him because he knew he could coach at the highest level.

ga southern honored him by firing both of his sons. I will never forgive that. Neither did ERK.

UGA is blessed that Erk will forevermore be a Dog! UGA loves Erk Russell


August 30th, 2010
4:32 pm

I forgot to add if you really miss Irk Russell you will find his heir at Grant Field coaching real football. We may not be able to recruit with the state university,but we have always been smarter. If you had any dealt of that tell me why you didn’t hire Russell after Dooley retired.


August 30th, 2010
4:33 pm

You have to love ESPN as the world wide leader in technology. How does that camera stay DRY when ole Lou Holtz starts talking and stumbling and spitting about college football. Dr. Lou, the only cure you can offer is how to get a school off probation, because you sure got a few on probation.


August 30th, 2010
4:35 pm

Tide, G8R, Beast you guys have a great afternoon. 90 degrees here today beter go enjoy it. It helps to balance out the zero’s in January.

G8R, I have been here since the Ray Goff era.


August 30th, 2010
4:41 pm

You from there or are you a Georgia native?


August 30th, 2010
4:41 pm

Paul Johnson is not worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Erk Russell. CPJ is as negative a person as I have ever met. Coach Russell was the opposite. CPJ never had a good word to say about anyone. Coach Russell was never heard to say a bad thing about anyone. Well, Maybe he talked bad about Florida Gators and gt.


August 30th, 2010
4:42 pm

Dawgdom, I grew up as a Georgia fan in Central Florida, my formative years being in the 70s and 80s. I can tell you that Florida fans are not one bit more obnoxious now than they were in the pre-1990, no SEC title days. They talked smacked nonstop in the middle of Georgia’s 10 out of 12 run from 1978-1989. It was always “you guys suck”, “wait ’till next year,” “Herschel’s all you got” (I heard that little nugget after Georgia’s shutout win in ‘82 – Herschel wasn’t known for his defense), and then, post-Herschel “you guys were lucky.” Absolutely ANYTHING other than acknowledging that they were simply beat by a better team.

I hate to do it, but you I’ll give UF fans credit for this – whether they are in the midst of a 59-year conference title drought or winning multiple conference and BCS titles, they think their team is God’s gift to college football (remember the famous quip from a Florida sportswriter about UF having the tradition of Wake Forest but the arrogance of Notre Dame). Although I’ll never pull for the SOBs, there is something admirable about that.


August 30th, 2010
4:46 pm

Ed, love your post. I must say that as far as I am concerned, there is nothing admirable about Florida.


August 30th, 2010
4:47 pm

” . . the tradition of Wake Forest but the arrogance of Notre Dame).”

That’s hilarious.
And truthfully, we didn’t consider the UF/UGA game as big a rivalry as the UF/FSU game because y’all kicked our collective a$$es up and down the field every year in Jax!


August 30th, 2010
4:48 pm

Tony, no need to rag on an immature kid like Ealy. His teammates, if they’re smart, will do it for you.Richt took a breath but if one of those big lineman would knock his block off just once, I doubt he’d do something to hurt the team again.


August 30th, 2010
4:48 pm


Have a wonderful evening, sir!



August 30th, 2010
4:49 pm

I’m neither an alum nor a fan of the University of Georgia but Erk was about as good as there ever was as a football coach!


August 30th, 2010
4:50 pm


” . . grew up as a Georgia fan in Central Florida.”

I grew up in Winter Park.


August 30th, 2010
5:47 pm

Mature an 18 yr old can be on an ARMY BASE and drink. If he has a traffic violation on the base he can be court marshelled. That will be on his record for LIKE so pleas stop making excuses for a stupid college kid. If the kid can vote, die in the army, and be elected to office(like Levi Johnson), then he has to standup and be a MAN. Richt is a JOKE and you know it. Richt sits in a momma’s livingroom telling her HE will make sure HER son gets the BEAT HE and UGA have to offer. Richt is no LEADER is is a money sniffing uga sheep.


August 30th, 2010
6:00 pm

I saw this letter on facebook, posted by one of the directors when I was in the Redcoat Band. I remember when Erk passed. I knew his grandson, and as I saw his family take the field, my heart went out to them. He was truly a great man and did so much for football in the state of Georgia.


August 30th, 2010
6:44 pm

Your right Hammerhead. I was a player for Erk at GSU and we lost to Furman in the National Championship because we thought Erk was leaving us going to Georgia. Afterwords there was alot of rumors. Erk told us in a meeting of the players that he had been offered the job at UGA and that he didnt want to comit to coaching 5 more seasons. What ticks me off is that UGA came back and said they didnt offer him the job. That was just wrong. Im glad he didnt take the job because I got to play for him “One more time” in a 15-0 perfect season in 1989.


August 30th, 2010
6:45 pm



August 30th, 2010
6:50 pm

Hey 69dog…..Erk chose to come to GSU and start a football team. We have won 6 National Titles in 25 years and played for eight. Erk was responsible for the success. Before you start doging on us you better start counting your own NC teams. And by the way, since you arent going to forgive Southern for firing his two sons, which was done by other coaches, I hope you forgive UGA for saying they didnt offer Erk the head coaching job, and they did. Now that to me is unforgivable.


August 30th, 2010
8:20 pm

No mention of your boys arrest t? I’d be embarassed too. Or perhaps you should have titled today’s article “how many uga players would be out against Sc. Stupid one sided jerk.

John Trotter

August 30th, 2010
9:35 pm

Tony: I generally always had a ticket (as a student), but between degrees, I was living and working in the Athens area and listening to the LSU game on the radio. The Dogs started coming back (and won the game!). I took off. Climbed up in the beaten-down kudzu and watched the rest of the game on the Tracks! I miss the Tracks too! Before the game, the Track people could see the team coming down East Campus Road, and they began to go wild! Then, the rest of the stadium sensed the urgency and began cheering too!

In !980-1980, I was back in school fulltime at UGA as a Graduate Assistant (not in football!). In addition to the Graduate Assistant money, I tutored the athletes at McWhorter Hall in the Mandatory Study Hall after supper — for a whopping $5.00 per hour (good extra money back then). Herschel was a freshman, and you know the rest of the story. I sat down at a table with Coach Erk and Buck Belue one evening. Coach Erk was quite a gentleman and had charisma galore! Those were the days, my friend. I remember when the whole study hall got very quite when everyone heard Herschel and Guy McIntyre getting into an argument over politcal philosophy! It was funny, and Herschel got the best of “Angus” (Guy’s nickname) in that dialectical discussion! I’ll tell you about it one day.

Yes, I have great memories of Coach Russell and The Track. I was just a student at the right place at the right time.

By the way, I enjoy watching you guys on CSS!


August 30th, 2010
10:24 pm

ERK – the greatest coach ever in the state of GA. Screwed out of the Head Coach job by Vince Dooley when Vince saw Hershel Walker coming his way and didn’t leave to go to Auburn. Won the national championship in 1980 and politely went to Georgia Southern – started a I-AA team from scratch in 1981. Wins his first I-AA championship 3 years later and 3 more before he gives the reigns (and the stud recruits) to Paul Johnson who won a championship his 1st year.

Class – hard nosed – honest – a true gentleman. Gosh I miss Erk.

Chuck Uga

August 30th, 2010
10:46 pm

Well Tony, you just upset the Vollies with that “whipping their butts” reference from the letter. I can hear the catcalls already.


August 30th, 2010
10:57 pm

Erk was old school. Can’t beat that.

But to have to reach back to 1980 to find memories worth recalling… long drought for you doggies.

Urf urf and Go Gators!

Chuck Uga

August 30th, 2010
11:11 pm

It certainly is a travesty that the morons on the athletic board could not agree to hire Erk after Dick Sheridan turned them down. It was the fault of the old President “from Iowa” Charles Knapp who could not tell a football from a tangerine. What an idiot.

Chuck Uga

August 30th, 2010
11:12 pm

ckgator, make so mistake. There are plenty of good memories for UGA since 1980. Maybe none as memorable, but hopefully another 1980-like season is around the corner. I am looking very forward to October 30th!

Chuck Uga

August 30th, 2010
11:17 pm

Just recalled that Charles Knapp was the one who SPEARHEADED the hiring of Ray Goff. Dooley was steadfastly AGAINST the hire but had taken that “leave of absence” to consider running for Governor. Charles Knapp set UGA football back ten years with that rush to judgement. These are FACTS folks. Can’t argue the truth.

Chuck Uga

August 30th, 2010
11:39 pm

You are brain dead.

Reality Tech

August 31st, 2010
12:27 am

Another homer article by the uga loving writers at the ajc. Redneck dawg fans–still dreaming of their only moment of glory–a fluke title in 1980. Even Tech has won more titles since then! Ga: arrogance, but no results. Rest easy dawgs— Tech’s winning another ACC title in 2010. Ga’s heading to another minor bowl somewhere cold

Red Dog 77

August 31st, 2010
1:36 am

Erk Russell, in my opinion was the greatest college football coach to walk the sidelines. Sometimes you never make it to the top, but that doesn’t mean you’re not the best ! It was a privelige to watch coach Russell motivate his “Junkyard Dawgs “………..Once while visiting friends in Statesboro, I happened to stop by the Georgia Southern practice fields. I stood in awe, 15feet away from Erk, and listened to a football legend “coach-up” his Eagles…….standing on a spot he called ” The banks of beautiful Eagle creek “………it was just a nasty, muddy little drainage ditch, but to Erk it was some place special………Erk Russell college football misses you, and so do I………..RED DOG 77


August 31st, 2010
4:16 am

The best motivational and point made to a team, Erk brought in someone to talk about how if you decide that you want to mess with drugs it can kill you. To make his point he opened a croker sack, and out came a rattlesnake, to which he said, and this can kill you too. Point made. They don’t make them like him anymore.

Bama Fan #2

August 31st, 2010
4:25 am

What was the QB name for GSU who beat my school MTSU every time in the playoffs in the 80’s.
Erk Russell I remembered watching him on the sidelines with marks all over his head back in the
late 70’s and early 80’s with the dawgs defense players getting them ready to play. That is a coach!!

Coolest in the Clutch

August 31st, 2010
6:21 am

Tech to unveil Nesbitt Heisman campaign.
Nesbitt for Heisman
paid off.
. . . . . . . Help out your Greensboro home town, Tony.


August 31st, 2010
1:20 pm

Bama Fan 2, that would be the greatest Eagle ever — Tracy Ham
It was Tim Stowers who won the 90 title with Erk’s players, The Last of the Hard. PJ spent time at Hawaii and Navy in etween. He rerurned in 97, made the playoffs, title game loss in 98 titles in 99 and 00, then left for Navy iafter the 01 season.
69dog, that’s Mr 6-time NC to you, loser. I do feel Rusty and Jay got the shaft however.
And one thing, many of you may discount our NCs, but they were all earned on the field by running a gauntlet of the best in FCS. No doubts, no excuses, no votes–JUST EARNED!! And thanks to each of you former Eagle players. I’ve seen every one of you play and you guys made us proud. Erk made us proud.


September 6th, 2010
11:46 pm

Satchmo that wasn’t exactly how it happened. He didn’t bring anyone to talk Erk did the talking. It was in a box not a bag. Read my post on previous page. Our 85 NC team is being honored on oct 9 for our 25th anniversary. Its not the same with our our Coach being there with us to celebrate. I can’t wait to bring my 15 yr old son who plays for north gwinnett to go with me for the first time to see where I played in college and see the statue of erk russell in the end zone. He has only heard stories about my coach. I grew up without a father and coach russell became my father figure. The most important man in my life.I remember being 17 rs old as true freshman in the summer of 84 and Coach Griffith told me to go tell Coach Russellt telephone. He was getting changed in the Coaches locker room. I was nervous so I found him and yelled to him “Erk telephone is for you in training room” I just then realized what I had done. I looked at him and he gave me a look that could kill an army of men. He said son don’t ever call me that again I am coach russell to you. I will meet you for sunrise service at 5 am tomorrow morning. Never called. Him that again. Another memory was when Coach Stowers ran the kick off team at least 10 kickoffs after getting scored on the previious Sat. He then asked me if I wanted to fight him over and over. Saying you don’t like me do you. Never had a Coach do that before. Coach Russell saw what was going on and jogged to where we were then got in Coach Stowers face and said don’t ever do that again and came to my aid. I will always remember that. By the way no offense to Dog fans but he told us candidly that he was more of an Eagle than he was a dog. Meaning GSU Eagle. Love you and Miss You Coach Russell