He will be missed. He was the defensive coordinator at UGA during my student years there. He wasn’t happy unless there was blood on his head from firing up his boys. He was tough as nails. He went on to build up the Georgia Southern program to national contenders.
It’s a sad, sad day for the BullDawg Nation.
UPDATE: That’s right, folks, I was there when they named the defense the Junkyard Dawgs (from the Jim Croce song, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”). Hey-yeh!
What they’re saying about former Georgia Southern football coach Erk Russell, who died this morning after a one-car accident in Statesboro:
Larry Munson, voice of the Bulldogs: “He was a threatening personality up close — you know, he might have invented the head butt. He meant an awful lot to this school’s program and he’ll be missed.”
Bill Harper, longtime Georgia fan: “Coach Russell was Georgia defense. He’s the one who coined the term ‘Junkyard Dawgs.’ Whenever you saw Erk, he would always ask you how your family was doing. He was awesome. This just makes me want to cry.”
Frank Ros, captain of Georgia’s 1980 national championship team: “There’s so many quotes that he he used to use that we — me and other former players — find ourselves using to our kids and not even knowing it. Things like: ‘Men, it’s another day in which to excel.’ “
Danny Ford, former Clemson coach: “I can still remember looking across the sideline at that old bad head that was bleeding and thinking, ‘Boy, I hope he ain’t playing.’ I really feel bad today for all the Georgia people. I know this is going to hit them hard.”
Hugh Nall, Auburn assistant coach and former Georgia player: “People will never completely understand what Coach Russell meant to the whole world of football. He was a great coach and a great man. There will never be another like him.”
Pat Dye, former Auburn coach and former Georgia player: “He was one of the all-time greats. Coach Russell’s players loved him as much as any coach I have ever seen. He had a lot to do with Georgia’s success for all those years and what he did at Georgia Southern speaks for itself. This is a sad day.”
Mac McWhorter, Texas offensive line coach and All-SEC guard at Georgia in 1973: “My parents still have a framed letter in their house that Coach Russell wrote to them when I left Georgia. It didn’t matter that I played offense. Coach Russell loved and cared about every player on that team. This is a tough one. This one is hard to take.”
UPDATE II: Now reports are saying he might died of a stroke. This is my Erk, circa 1979. I was a senior that fall. That day.
WSB-TV. This article mentions another good ol’ dawg that probably met Erk at the red and black gates of that Junkyard In The Sky – Lewis Grizzard.
Lewis Grizzard said of Russell in 1991, “Only Erk could transform a rainwater gulley alongside Georgia Southern’s practice field into the “miracle water of Eagle Creek,” and only Erk could have transformed a dormant program into a national championship.”
UPDATE III: Funeral coverage.
“Our grief, our tears, our hurt and our shock is because he was taken from us so suddenly, without warning,” said the Rev. Claude McBride, chaplain for the Georgia Bulldogs during Russell’s tenure. “We thought he was invincible. No one is.”