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Erk belongs in Hall of Fame

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POSTED: June 6, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Fortunately for me, there are some things you don’t need a lot of brains to figure out.

For example: Stand out in the rain in front of city hall and you’ll get wet. Stand out in the rain in front of city hall naked and you’ll get wet and arrested.

Those are examples of what are known as no-brainers because they’re self evident and require very little thought, if any.

Most of us get the drift.

Yet the College Football Hall of Fame apparently needs a little help figuring out what a no-brainer is. And it obviously needs an assist in realizing some rules beg for exception, including its own rule saying anyone with less than 10 years as a head coach can’t be inducted.

Why the fuss?

The CFHF recently announced its 2009 inductions and Erskine "Erk" Russell wasn’t among them.

Failing to induct Erk wasn’t a no-brainer, it was a head scratcher. Granting an exception to its 10-year rule in Russell’s case is the no-brainer.

Russell, who died in 2006, guided Georgia Southern to three NCAA I-AA national championships while rebuilding a football program that had lain dormant since World War II. He only spent eight seasons as a head coach, but what an eight years they were. Russell went 83-22-1 during that span and Statesboro and Georgia Southern will never be the same.

In fact, there are many who believe very inch of the school’s university status came largely because of what Erk’s Eagles did on fall Saturdays. They are not wrong.

Erk is one of the sport’s genuine heros and a state legend.

He became one using old fashioned virtues like hard work and humility and humor. Erk invented the big TEAM little me concept and the phrase GATA -- and every good Bulldog and Eagle knows what that means.

He also did miracles on occasion, like turning a drainage ditch into Beautiful Eagle Creek and a live rattlesnake into a lesson on the dangers of drugs. Mostly, he turned boys into men and -- on quite a few glorious fall Saturdays -- transformed quite a few grown men into boys again.

Yet Russell not only is beloved in Bulloch County but also in Athens, where he spent 17 seasons before heading down to Statesboro.

To Bulldog fans, Erk is part of an exclusive club that also includes Hershel Walker and Lewis Grizzard and Vince Dooley. To Eagle fans, Erk is bigger than all three. He is simply beyond compare or measure -- a benevolent, bald-headed, cigar-smoking and joke-telling icon still cherished 20 years after his last national title, which capped the 1989 perfect 15-0 season.

But whether you remember Russell through school ties tinted red and black or blue and white, you felt better about life knowing he was part of it. So profound was his impact on people that, had he a more crooked bend, he could’ve been governor. Yet it is a tribute to him that he never sought political office -- where he would have been a fish out of water, to be sure.

Because in an age where we have rules for everything, his only rule was ‘do right,'

It's the Hall's turn to do just that by enshrining Erk and my guess is they will.

After all, it's a no-brainer.

 

 

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