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Georgia Southern Rising

By Joe Joe Wright

joejoe.wright@cordeledispatch.com

When “Moses” oops! Excuse me Vince Dooley first came to the University of Georgia in 1964, he wanted to win. So what do you do if you want to win? Hire an alumni named Erk Russell as your defensive coordinator. That hire was the most significant of his entire career.

Erk Russell was the man responsible for all those great defenses that the Georgia Bulldogs had for all those years from 1964-1980. Some may say he was a genius; he was definitely a one of a kind character, with blood on his forehead from head butting his defense while they had on helmets. I might add here that his players and all Georgia fans purely loved him.

Then in 1982 Georgia Southern started up their mothballed football program that had been dormant for over 40 years. The first three years Coach Russell presided over a “club” team and then they jumped into division 1 AA ball. On a shoestring budget and I mean shoestring (example practice pants and game pants were one and the same) and that’s just one example. So what’s so great about Erk? 1985 wins National Championship in Division 1AA, oh wait he does it again in 1986, then loses in the 1988 national title and wins again in 1989. So Coach Russell plays for 4 national titles in 6 years of Division 1 AA football and wins three. So what else did he do while at Georgia Southern? Well he won 15 games in 1989 the most of any college in the 20th century. Yes! Erk Russell

had created a dynasty. Russell retired after the 1989 season and several coaches would go on to some modest and great success. Paul Jones would win 2 National Titles in 1999 and 2000.

For most of the 2000’s Georgia Southern has had some modest success but in 2014 everything changed. No longer playing with the “little” boys of football Georgia Southern made the move to the FBS (Football Bowl Series). Now a member of the Sunbelt Conference and playing teams like SEC powerhouse Georgia, Florida and this year Ole Miss, Georgia Southern is now sitting at the big boys table. After having won the Sunbelt Conference with 8-0 record in their first year the Eagles would be denied a bowl invitation due to FBS and FCS transition rules. So they had to sit out! Entering the 2015 season the Eagles had high expectations and a fine team. They went 9-4 played and won their first ever bowl game against Bowling Green and shocked all UGA fans when they lost in overtime to Georgia 23-17 at Sanford Stadium.

In the off season the Eagles got a new Head Coach in Tyson Summers, a Tifton, Ga. native who came to Southern from Colorado State. The new coach wasted little time in building himself a staff. Most notably David Dean a two time National Champion Head Coach at Valdosta State in 2007 and 2012 will serve as a co offensive coordinator. So basically the future of Georgia Southern football looks promising. Finally playing with the big boys and they have one of the 2 richest areas in the whole USA for football talent to search through. Yeah Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and South Carolina are all digging around these parts recruiting as well but there is an awful lot of talent within 200 miles of Statesboro and they going to get some as well. Ms. Coaches prediction is that on 10-15-16 Georgia Tech is going to fall and 3 weeks later Ole Miss might better watch out as well.poohjoe joe 2