Friends, Fans, Former Players Say Goodbye to Erk Russell - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports


Friends, Fans, Former Players Say Goodbye to Erk Russell

For at least one afternoon in Georgia, it was more than okay for grown men to cry. Either in red and black or blue and white, fans and former players from Georgia Southern and University of Georgia came from across the state to pay last respects to Erk Russell.

"You work through the sadness because in many ways, Erk was a person you thought would live forever and ever," recalled Erk's boss at UGA Vince Dooley.

With one championship at Georgia and three at Georgia Southern, Erk's coaching was legendary. But many remember the man who left the Dawgs to start the Eagles as one who happily built a legacy from scratch.

The first year, he recruited from the dormitories and issued an open tryout. Then he sought players nobody else recruited. Fred Stokes was one of them. He played one year of football in high school. After four years with Erk Russell, he played 10 years in the NFL.

"He gave me a chance when nobody else would and to that I'm grateful," he said.

"He could have come in with a lot of demands," noted former GSU athletic director Dr. Bucky Wagner. "But he took what little we had and made good out of it."

His lessons in life touched men beyond the field. Many found strength back in the huddle today.

"I know what he meant to you." shouted former Eagle Tim Durden. "But I also know what you meant to him. He changed your life like he changed my life."

What made Erk's death Friday more poignant to many was he'd promised to be at Saturday's game - his first in years.

Old wounds over his son's firing from Southern had finally healed and The Coach was back with his team. While this wasn't the homecoming they'd expected, fans were thankful to share their love for Erk Russell one more time.

Reported by Dal Cannady,


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