Coach John Russell—1948-49 Wildcat
John Russell was the head
football coach at PRCC from 1967-73. He won two state championships and
five of his seven teams won nine games.
Russell first came to Pearl
River in 1960 as an assistant coach under Dobie
Holden. “I learned how to
coach football under Coach Holden,” said Russell. “He was one of the greatest
football coaches to ever coach the game.”
When Holden retired in 1966,
Russell told him he wanted the head job. “He said he would see that I got
the job and I did,” said Russell.
Russell, 69, a native of
Monticello, played football at the University of Southern Mississippi for
four years under Thad “Pie” Vann. He coached one year at Crystal Springs
High School before Holden called with a job offer at PRCC.
“The first time I went down
and visited with him, he talked to me like I had been there all my life,”
said Russell. “He was something. Senior college coaches used to come in
there and he would give them one heckuva football clinic. They would have
all day sessions with him on the chalkboard.
“Coach (Holden) was the first
guy outside of the pros to run the pro offense. He was so far ahead of
everybody it wasn’t even funny. After I got the job, I would go to him
to get his opinion on some of the things we were doing.”
Russell won state championships
in 1969 and 1970. The 1969 team finished 9-0, outscoring opponents 329-100,
despite playing a portion of its home games on the road due to damage from
Hurricane Camille. The Wildcats defeated Holmes 54-0 for the crown.
The offensive sparkplug for
the Wildcats was running back Willie Heidelberg, a member of the PRCC Hall
of Fame. “He was so fast it was like trying to catch a gnat,” said Russell.
Russell left PRCC in 1973
and entered the building business. “The only reason I left is because I
couldn’t educate my kids on the money I was being paid,” he said.
He would later return to
coaching in Mississippi as an assistant at Co-Lin, East Central and East
Mississippi community colleges before returning to Texas in 1992.
“If I could, I just as soon
be in Poplarville as anywhere,” he said. “It was a great place to stay,
and Pearl River was a great place to coach.”
The 1970 Wildcats finished
9-2, winning the state championship 27-8 over East Central.