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Ralph's Report

Eagles For Erk, the Erk Russell Statue Project

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In the huddle the play was called 370 A Middle. On third down and 10 with 14 seconds left, the legend began. Tracy Ham dropped back and found Frankie Johnson in the back of the endzone to win the first of Erk Russell's three NCAA Division I National Championships at Georgia Southern University. The play would become known as "The Catch" in GSU lore.
The legendary bald eagle. Erk Russell is a Football Championship Subdivision icon. He is the spirit of GSU and the FCS. He created every significant tradition that GSU has. He took a K-Mart football and ran with it to three titles, he took drainage ditch waters and made them magical, he took an old yellow bus and rode that thing to glory. Now's the time a group at GSU wants him paid back.

This story began a while back with Derek Sills, Brian Brennan, and Paul Barkley from the alumni board at Georgia Southern. Brian also sits on the athletic foundation board and the Presidential steering committee for facilities upgrades.

Brian was reading an article of a sportswriter who was interviewing Urban Meyer at Florida. The guy asked Meyer if he would ever leave and go to the NFL and Meyer said no because he loved the "pageantry of the game" of college football. In fact, the writer said that while he was there for the interview, they were putting up a bronze plaque with Tim Tebow's quote on it. You know the one, "Nobody will work harder, push more god bless..." etc. This raised Brian's ire as he thought of Erk's quote of "We are Georgia Southern" which appears nowhere at their stadium. Considering pageantry, GSU's founder is considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.

He began to look up how other schools honored their coaches. Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, Knute Rockne, Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian, and Bear Bryant all have statues at their school's stadiums. GSU does have the bust that the players touch before games but nothing for the fans. He and a tailgating crew flew into Baltimore for the Delaware game last year and stopped by the Maryland sports hall of fame. Inside is the original statue of Testudo, the official mascot of the University of Maryland that was outside Maryland's stadium. They have a statue of the turtle, they thought. If the turtle gets a statue, they vowed, Erk was going to get one too.

They began planning as soon as they got back from the game. Their goal is to put a full size statue of Erk Russell at the front of the GSU Stadium. They talked to several of the artists that created the statues of other coaches, including the ones from Florida State and Notre Dame. They found the statue and the plaque of the "We Are Georgia Southern" quote was going to cost roughly $80,000.

They are roughly half way there in raising the amount needed and the Eagle Club is in the middle of doing a fundraiser right now to finish the job.

On May 27 they are having a "pig patty" party. Featured is a field that will be gridded off with squares. At the appropriate time, a pig will be released and whoever owns the square that he "drops the ball" in will win $5,000 as a prize. They decided to name the pig, "Manbear" (nickname of star defensive lineman Brent Russell). The squares are $20 apiece and every nickel goes to the Erk Russell Statue Project. There is no debate of big donors versus small donors because the legend of Erk belongs to us all. In fact, Erk talked frequently about the big donors and small donors who made the GSU program possible. He said all gave to "see the eagle fly" and they all meant something to him. He is our tradition. He is our hedges, he is our Chief Osceola on renegade, he is the plaid hat to us. He is a symbol of winning on the field that strongly signifies the FCS as a whole.

If you would like to help the group take the first step in making GSU's "Our House" the venerable location to play in the FCS which they have earned, they would be thankful. Their dream is that the Erk Russell Athletic Complex is one day an exemplary complex, not just a field and a parking lot. The "wow" factor and the pageantry of the game is something we're all after. If you would like to buy tickets for the Eagles for Erk "pig patty" party or would just like to make a donation you can make checks payable to the Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation and send them to 170 Bluff Creek Dr, Midway Ga 31320.

"The brotherhood of football ... is the strongest brotherhood known to man as far as I'm concerned."
- Erskine "Erk" Russell

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