PRCC Sports Hall of Fame

Coach John Russell—1948-49 Wildcat Football

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.



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