Coach Russ Faulkinberry’s Tribute
Biography of Russ Faulkinberry
After a stellar high school, athletic career, where he played football, basketball and track. He earned All-conference three years in a row and All-South honors. He captained the football & basketball and was the MVP of the basketball team. An interesting side note is that former USL athletic director A.G. “Whitey” Urban, who was responsible for bringing coach to USL in 1961, was also one of his high school coaches at Baylor Prep school in Chattanooga.
Coach Faulkinberry accepted an athletic scholarship to Vanderbilt University where he earned four varsity letters as a tackle and was named captain of the 1950 team. He was selected All-Southeastern Conference in 1950 and was name an honorable mention All-American. In 1951 he played in the Senior Bowl game. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1951 earning a B.A.
Coach began his coaching career immediately after graduation and was a high school coach for one year prior to his enlistment in the United States Navy. During his naval career and during a time when there were service teams playing college football teams, he coached the San Diego Training Center team for three seasons. He would later coach the Cajuns against the Pensacola Navy team in 1967 & 1968. Beginning in 1956 Coach Faulkinberry began his collegiate coaching career with successive stints at Southeastern Louisiana, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Nebraska before accepting his first head coaching position at USL in 1961 at the age of 32.
If anyone has ever seen the movie “The Junction Boys” they would understand what those initial USL players came to understand about Coach Faulkinberry. He was a tough, no nonsense, demanding taskmaster. The stories of those days have taken on legendary status. Let’s just say that the biblical phrase “many are called but few are chosen” would have fit right in to the style of coaching. His description of his “philosophy of football” for his so-called “program” would always have the same theme running through it, the one most often quoted was “I take a group of selfish immature boys and through a series of unselfish acts, make men out of them”.
Faulkinberry USL football teams won the Gulf States Conference Championship in 1965, 1968 and 1970. The 1970 team played in a NCAA bowl, the Grantland Rice Bowl. Coach Faulkinberry was named Conference Coach of the Year four times and was once named the Louisiana Coach of the Year. When Coach left the Cajuns, he was the “winningest coach” in Cajun football history. After his departure Coach Faulkinberry ended his football coaching career with a one season stint with the Jacksonville Sharks of the fledging World Football League. Although his football coaching career was over, he did not stop coaching. He brought his brand of “tough love” to the field of substance abuse and for the next 15 years was an administrator in that field. His success once again recognized by him being named the 1979 National Chairperson for the National Drug Abuse Conference.
Coach was a complex person, tough as nails on the outside but a more complete person on the inside. He was blessed with two daughters, Lee and Mary, who were the light of his life and the two people who could break through that tough exterior with a smile. He was a gourmet cook, and loved the opportunity to demonstrate his skills to others. He had a profound influence on the lives of many young men on the football field, and many men and women in breaking the bondage of substance abuse. There are many who would cite his influence as a critical piece of their personal development.
Coach Faulkinberry passed away on November 16, 2005 at the age of 77.
Submitted by Jim Doyle, Football 1967-70, on 6/5/2017
For photos of Coach Faulkinberry’s Football Teams, click on www.athleticnetwork.net , Photo Gallery (left side of home page), Football, and the years 1961-73.
Click here to view the 1965 Football Photo Gallery which includes unique signage for the team photo commemorating the first conference championship for Coach Faulkinberry’s Bulldogs, Raging Cajuns, Ragin’ Cajuns.
Click here to view the photo gallery of the Faulkinberry Reunion on Aug. 13, 2005. It is extensive, so please allow time to upload.
Click here for the letter Coach Faulkinberry sent to his senior football players and received by Jim Doyle prior to his 1970 senior season.