ATHENS, Ga.—This week, junior tailback Brendan Douglas was asked what his father remembers about the legendary Erk Russell. After serving as Georgia’s defensive coordinator for 17 seasons, Russell jump-started the Georgia Southern football program in 1981. From 1982 through 1989, Russell’s Eagles won nearly 80 percent of their games, while capturing three Division I-AA national championships (1985, 1986, and 1989). Russell passed away in 2006.
Brendan’s father, Pat Douglas, played under Russell, first as a walk-on defender at Georgia from 1979-1980, and as a standout defensive back at Georgia Southern from 1981-1982. He then served as Russell’s defensive backs coach for three seasons from 1983-1985.
“He loves Erk Russell,” Brendan said of his father. “He quotes him all the time.”
And, indeed, Erk Russell could always be counted on to give a good quote. Besides the success Russell experienced coaching from the sidelines, and his extraordinary motivational tactics, he might be best remembered for his inspiring, sometimes witty quotes, jokes, and stories he told.
Personally, I was somewhat familiar with Erk’s wit firsthand. As a child, my mother and Russell’s wife, Jean, were good friends, and there were a number of times I was fortunate enough to be in his presence. I’ve bragged for years that when I was four or five years old, or around the time Georgia won the national title in 1980, Erk grabbed me when the Russells were visiting our home, set me in his lap, and told me one of his humorous, yet inspiring stories.
About 20 years ago, or five or six years after Russell stepped down from coaching, my mother called Jean in Statesboro to catch up. Erk answered and, before calling Jean to the phone, asked my mother if she was familiar with the four stages of men’s senility.
“No,” my mother replied.
“1) We forget names; 2) We forget faces; 3) We forget to zip our pants up; and 4) We forget to zip our pants down,” Erk said.
With that, I present my 10 most favorite quotes ever made by the revered Erk Russell… Although sorely missed, as is Jean, who joined him two years later in 2008, Erk will always, always be remembered by Georgia and Georgia Southern enthusiasts, and assuredly anyone else who just happened—just once—to be in his presence.
- “You’re good enough to play for me and you’re good enough to win.” (Addressing his first defensive unit at Georgia in preseason practice of 1964)
- “There isn’t anything meaner than a junkyard dog. They aren’t good for nothing except for being mean and ornery. That’s what we want our defense to be.” (Summer practice of 1975)
- “[The Junkyard Dogs] have to be in the proper frame of mind for this one. We call it intelligent fanaticism, with a little more emphasis on the fanaticism.” (Prior to the 1975 Florida game)
- “If we score, we may win. If they never score, we’ll never lose.”
- “THERE AIN’T NOTHING LIKE BEING A BULLDOG ON A SATURDAY NIGHT – – – – – AFTER WINNING A FOOTBALL GAME. I mean like whipping Tennessee’s ass to start with, then ten more and then another one.” (In a July 7, 1980 letter addressed to Gentlemen: (and Linemen))
- “I can grow hair with the best of them. It’s just poorly proportioned.”
- “I looked down and there was a dime on the ground. I picked it up, put it in my left shoe. …We beat Clemson that day…I taped the dime in my shoe so I wouldn’t lose it, and made sure that I wore it throughout the season. We were 12-0 and won the national championship, and I’m sure the dime did it.”
- “The best way to win a game is not to lose it.”
- “At Georgia Southern, we don’t cheat. That costs money and we don’t have any.”
- “If you don’t have the best of everything, you make the best of everything you have.”