Movie on Erk Russell excites friends, former players

Movie on Erk Russell excites friends, former players

STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - A movie based on the late Erk Russell is enough to give Tim Durden goose bumps. Durden played for Russell's early teams at Georgia Southern as the coach was building a team from scratch and turning it into a dynasty.

"He was a life changer, said Durden, in a voice thick with emotion. "He motivated me then to do my best in everything and he still does today."

"You wonder how they're going to portray him," added Daryl Hopkins, who played on Russell's last team in 1989. "He was more than a coach. His record speaks for itself.

Russell left the University of Georgia in 1981 to restart a football team that had been shut down during World War II. He started with no stadium, no scholarships, second-hand equipment and won three NCAA I-AA championships before he retired in 1989.

A pair of Georgia Southern graduates now in the film industry, Beau Turpin and James Kicklighter, announced plans to produce a movie on Russell's miraculous tenure with the Eagles. Kicklighter told WTOC the story is more compelling than many sports movies released in recent years.

"The Erk Russell story is not just about winning games, it's not just about winning national championships, it's a story about community. It's about a community wanting something and creating it out of nothing and coming out much stronger than they were to begin with. When you have that it's more compelling than just the games won on the field," he explained.

That sentiment is echoed by Ric Mandes, one of Russell's close friends. Mandes headed Southern's marketing and public relations during football's return. He helped promote the team across South Georgia, helped Russell canvas the South for support. He also helped with the coach's biography.

"Erk Russell was a great human being who walked humbly among the people and had the boys on fire to help him to not only win the game on the field but win the game for life. If Beau and James can get those little things that happened in between football games, it's going to be a fantastic movie," he expressed.

For more information on the project, visit

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