A former Quitman Bulldog has been named to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Football Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Pittsburg, Kansas, during National Championship Week on the campus of Pitt State University this weekend. Quitman graduate and Navarro Junior College running back Kelvin Russell has earned the distinguished honor.
Russell played on Quitman teams coached by Ron Erwin and was on the Bulldogs first district champion team which fell to Hooks -- and Billy Simms -- in bi-district play at Mt. Pleasant 20-13 in his junior year. Russell was a having a great season until an ankle injury against Grand Saline cost him most of the season. He was hurt as he scored on a six yard run against the Indians. He had already scored on a 75-yard touchdown jaunt earlier in the game.
After an opening game loss to White Oak Russell sparked a big 27-7 win over Lindale when Russell had an electrifying 85-yard punt return according to a front page article in a 1974 Wood County Democrat.
In Russell’s senior year, Quitman lost out on another district crown and the playoffs when Winnsboro kicked a field goal with nine seconds left on the clock for a 30-28 win over the Bulldogs. In those days, only the district champion went to the playoffs.
In Russell’s senior year he ran for 1,415 yards of Quitman’s total team offensive output of 3,261 yards. He saved one of his finest games for his last one with 207 rushing yards in a win over Commerce to end the season. Russell was quick to give his coaches and teammates credit. “We had great coaches while I was at Quitman. Coach Ron Erwin, Don Neighbors, Orval Lindsey and David Seago were all important to me,” Russell noted. “We also had a great line and I got to play with great guys like Tony Spanko, Kenzie Foley, Harold Shields, Howard Jones, Steve Cates and Keith Clark and those are just some of the guys. We had great team chemistry.”
He said Lindsey played a big role in his time at Quitman. “Coach Lindsey was just a great coach and a stand up guy. He took care of his players. And he was good to me and all the guys on the team,” Russell said. “He expected our best on the field and in the classroom. He was always there for me when I needed answers to questions I might have.”
Lindsey knew Russell was special. “I knew Kelvin had a special talent in football from the time I first saw him in junior high. He worked hard in junior high and high school at Quitman to become one of the best running backs we have ever had,” Lindsey said. “He continued to work hard at the college level and mad a name for himself. We should all be proud and honor him for this acheievement.”
Russell’s next stop was the rugged landscape of junior college football. “I went to Navarro because I wanted to be somewhere I knew I would get some playing time and show people what I could do,” Russell said. “My teammates and my coaches were the reasons I was able to be successful. Back then, we had 33 players on the team, not like today when they have 90 to 100 players.”
All Russell did in his two years at the Corsicana junior college was make All American at running back in his second (sophomore) season. He held the season total yardage record of 1,335 at Navarro for almost 40 years until it was broken in 2012 and he still has the second most in a single season. He also is second on the list of most carries in a season with 342. He also holds down fifth place on the Navarro list for 1,188 yards he gained his freshman year.
Russell’s per-game average rushing numbers were 118.8 per game in 1977 and he scored twice in leading Navarro to a 35-28 win in the Texas JUCO Bowl played at Williams Stadium in Garland. “Winning the bowl game was a big accomplishment for all of us at Navarro. It was a great way to end our careers there,” he said.
Russell was the keynote speaker Oct. 13 at the 2018 Navarro College Alumni Luncheon where he was introduced by former teammate Drew Montgomery. “Drew was an All American lineman the same year I made the All American team as a running back,” Russell added. “He was a great lineman and one of the reasons I was able to gain so much yardage. I had a great line in front of me at Navarro and I still stay in touch with most of those guys. They were more than teammates, they were and still are good friends.”