The news first reported here at Dawg Sports is starting to spread throughout Bulldog Nation and the red Georgia flags are being lowered to half-staff in honor of beloved Bulldog and Eagle legend Erk Russell.
I will be posting a game day open comment thread tomorrow morning, but, suddenly, Georgia's game against South Carolina seems very much of secondary importance. Today, I want to post a very different sort of comment thread, soliciting your memories, thoughts, and tributes regarding this great man.
I have mentioned before that I half-jokingly---but only half-jokingly---tried to convince my wife to let me name our son "Erskine Russell King," in honor of the longtime Bulldog defensive coordinator. (I even pointed out that the boy's monogrammed sweaters would spell out "Erk.")
When Susan balked at this idea, I suggested a compromise: we would only name the boy after Erk if he looked like Erk when he was born. I figured that was a safe bet, since, after all, Coach Russell was chubby, wrinkled, and baldheaded . . . which is what just about every baby looks like at birth.
Well, my son is named Thomas, not Erk, but still I revered the old coach and I had the pleasure of meeting him once. It takes a lot to get me to leave a Georgia game early, but the nasty weather at the 1996 Texas Tech game between the hedges was enough to drive me from Sanford Stadium and a group of us went over to a hotel lounge to watch the rest of the game.
When we entered, I saw a bald man standing nearby in the semi-darkness and I joked to one of my friends, "Hey, look! It's Erk!" Then I looked again . . . and, sure enough, it was Erk.
I decided not to bother him, but I kept an eye on him as we watched the end of the game. The 'Dawgs were 0-2 at that point and, after Georgia took a late lead, the Red Raiders had one more chance to drive the field and win the game. I couldn't resist.
I got up, went over to Coach Russell, offered him my hand, and introduced myself. He shook my hand and I told him, "Coach, I wish you were wearing a headset right about now." He laughed and thanked me and said something humble, then I went back to my seat and watched the rest of the game.
Georgia won, despite the fact that the Bulldogs' defense was not being directed by Coach Russell that day, but Erk remains the gold standard for Georgia D . . . and for coaching generally.
It is a sad day in Bulldog Nation. Please leave your thoughts and tributes to Coach Russell in the comments below.