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Erk Russell, Georgia Southern Legend
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 09/08/2006
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The legend of Erk Russell continues to grow

 

Since leading the Eagle football team to its third NCAA Division I-AA national championship and retiring from coaching in December, 1989, Russell has continued to give all he can to Georgia Southern. Whether assuming chairmanship of the university's capital campaign or dousing the baseball team bus with Eagle Creek Water before its departure for the College World Series, Russell has remained an active and visible booster of GSU and its programs.

 

As a coach, Russell saved the best for last. He entered the 1989 season as America's winningest coach, orchestrator of two national championships, 68 wins and 14 All-America selections - during a seven-year period.

 

In the ensuing 105 days, Southern ascended to the top spot in the NCAA I-AA football poll and Russell smoked 15 victory cigars. Erk's Eagles extended Division I's longest home win streak from 26 to 37 games. Strong safety Randell Boone, free safety Taz Dixon and offensive guard Sean Gainey raised Russell's All-America count to 17.  Georgia Southern gained distinction as the only 15-0 college team of this century.

 

Russell's final record at Georgia Southern is a remarkable 83-22-1 (.788).  After the Eagles moved to Division I-AA in 1984, he fashioned a 70-14 (.825) mark.  Russell averaged 10.4 wins per season.

 

When Georgia Southern brought football back in 1981 it looked to Russell, long-time defensive coordinator at Georgia.  Russell's first Eagle team, comprised entirely of walk-on players, fashioned a 7-3-1 record in 1982.  The next year Southern went 6-5, with four of the losses by five points or less.  In 1984 the Eagles entered Division I-AA and went 8-3, narrowly missing a national playoff berth.  Then came consecutive 13-2 seasons and back-to-back national championships, a I-AA first.  With true freshman Raymond Gross at quarterback, the Eagles advanced to the national quarterfinals in 1987 before finishing 9-4.  In 1988, Southern made its third championship game appearance in four seasons, falling to Furman 17-12 in Pocatello, Idaho.

 

Russell, who developed a reputation as one of college football's great defensive coordinators at Georgia, put together an extraordinary offense for the Eagles.  His 1986 squad led the nation in scoring (41.3 points per game), total offense (501.8 yards per game), and rushing offense (327.1).  Georgia Southern was unstoppable in the playoffs during the 1986 season, averaging 50.7 points.  His last Eagle team won the national rushing championship (329.2 yards per game).  Southern was among the top five teams nationally in both scoring (12.1 points) and total defense (255.9 yards) while allowing only 133 points, a school-record, and holding two opponents scoreless.

 

During his 17 years at Georgia, Russell molded some of the country's finest defensive teams and his Junkyard Dogs became synonymous with Bulldog football. In 1967 Georgia led the Southeastern Conference in total defense and scoring defense.  The next year Georgia topped the SEC in total defense and led the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 9.8 points per contest.  In 1971, Russell's group paced the country in shutouts and finished among the nation's Top 10 in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense.  The '78 Bulldogs finished a point behind national champion Alabama in scoring defense.  UGA's '79 defense forced 49 takeaways, the national high.

 

A native of Birmingham, Ala., Russell holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Auburn.  He played football, basketball, baseball and tennis for the Tigers, earning 10 varsity letters.  Russell was the last four-sport letterman in Auburn history.

 

Born July 23, 1926, Russell is married to the former Jean Farmer of Birmingham. They have two sons -- Rusty and Jay.

 

 

 

            ERK RUSSELL'S RECORD THROUGH THE YEARS

Year                 School                                      W         L          T          Pct.

1982                 Georgia Southern                       7          3          1          .636

1983                 Georgia Southern                       6          5          0          .545

1984                 Georgia Southern                       8          3          0          .727

1985                 Georgia Southern                       13         2          0          .867

1986                 Georgia Southern                       13         2          0          .867

1987                 Georgia Southern                       9          4          0          .692

1988                 Georgia Southern                       12         3          0          .800

1989                 Georgia Southern                       15         0          0          1.000

Eight Years                                                       83         22         1          .788

 

HONORS AND AWARDS

1996 - Inducted into the Blue-Gray Game Hall of Fame

1990 - Georgia Association of Broadcasters ‘Georgian of the Year’

1989 - Eddie Robinson Award (symbolic of top Division I-AA coach)

          Football Gazette ‘Coach of the Year’

          USA Today Georgia ‘Coach of the Year’

          USA Today Georgia ‘Coach of the Decade’

          Kodak-American Football Coaches Association I-AA ‘Coach of the Year’

          Georgia Sports Hall of Fame ‘Coach of the Year’

1988 - Georgia Sports Hall of Fame ‘Coach of the Year’

1987 - Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

1986 - Kodak-American Football Coaches Association I-AA ‘Coach of the Year’

          Washington, D.C., Touchdown Club 1-AA ‘Coach of the Year’

          Football News ‘Coach of the Year’

          Chevrolet-CBS Sports i-AA ‘Coach of the Year’

          Atlanta Touchdown Club ‘Coach of the Year’

          Macon Touchdown Club ‘Coach of the Year’

          100% Wrong Club of Atlanta ‘Coach of the Year’

          Georgia Sports Hall of Fame ‘Coach of the Year’

          Statesboro Rotary Club ‘Man of the Year’

1985 - Georgia Sports Hall of Fame ‘Coach of the Year’

          Football News ‘Coach of the Year’

          ABC-TV ‘Coach of the Year’

          Washington, D.C., Touchdown Club I-AA ‘Coach of the Year’

1984 - Georgia Sports Hall of Fame ‘Coach of the Year’

 

 

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