ATHENS – Everybody loves Russ it seems, even Mark Richt. On the eve of Russ’ inauguration as an official Uga mascot – “collaring” it’s called in these parts – the Bulldogs’ head coach talked about how Russ exemplifies a football player who has been overlooked but just did his job to the best of his ability and finally got a break.
“You know what, the guy, he could have gotten bitter,” Richt said with a laugh this week. “Everybody was saying that he couldn’t get it done. It was a little bit like Kwame Geathers hearing about John Jenkins so much. He didn’t like it, so he bowed his neck and won the job. I’m proud of him.”
Russ, an 8-year-old half-brother of Uga VII, has served as interim mascot for 25 games over four seasons when Ugas VII and VIII died. He’ll be sworn in as the official Uga in a ceremony before tonight’s 7:30 p.m. game against Florida Atlantic.
Russ has brown patches on his fur, so doesn’t meet the pure-white requirement traditionally needed to be the mascot. But after filling in and representing Georgia in all 14 games last season and two this one, the Sonny Seiler family decided to reward Russ for his loyalty.
That will satisfy a growing number of Georgia fans, who had started a grassroots effort to make Russ the permanent mascot. “In Russ we trust,” was their mantra.
“People have bought into Russ,” UGA president Michael Adams said at Friday’s meeting of the UGA Athletic Board. “I think this has been a well-received decision, and the notion that he earned it has really resonated.”
Adams noted that the interim mascot’s promotion to Uga IV has been the talk of the town.
“I’ve even heard people on the street say, ‘Go Russ,’” he said. “I think it has hit a chord, the decision that was made to go ahead and make him official.”
Uga IX entered Saturday night’s game with a 16-9 record.