Erk Russell, 1926-2006
Georgia Southern University mourns the passing of Erk Russell, one of America’s most exciting and successful college football coaches, who died suddenly on the morning of Sept. 8 in Statesboro. The cause of death is yet to be determined. He was 80.
Russell, who coached the Eagles to three NCAA Division I-AA championships, led the team from 1981-89, after spending 17 years as one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators at the University of Georgia.
‘The entire Georgia Southern community is deeply shocked and saddened by Erk’s passing,” said President Bruce Grube. ‘Just yesterday, he spent the afternoon with this year’s team, giving our young players a moment they will treasure for the rest of their lives.”
To call Erk a Georgia Southern legend is still a bit of an understatement, Grube noted. Russell revived a football program that had been dormant for 40 years.
‘His accomplishments in the football program were tremendous. His unwavering vision of what could be, and of the heights that were waiting to be attained, continues to inspire this university today,” Grube said. ‘Erk’s spirit lives not only within Georgia Southern athletics, but across the campus, from classrooms, to laboratories and studios, and in the hearts of students, faculty and staff alike.
“Just as important, however, were the morals and ethics Erk instilled in his players and the positive impact he made on people he met in everyday life. His motto of ‘just do right’ was his rule book on how to live one’s life.
are with his wife Jean, sons Rusty and Jay, and the entire family.”
Russell entered his final season, in 1989, as one of America’s winningest coaches, with two national championships under his belt.
In the ensuing 105 days, Southern ascended to the top spot in the I-AA football world and Russell smoked 15 victory cigars. Georgia Southern gained distinction as the only 15-0 college team of the 20th century.
Russell’s final record at Georgia Southern was a remarkable 83-22-1.
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.
A native of Birmingham, Ala., Russell held 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.