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Former Coach: Faulkinberry, 77, remembered as someone who shaped lives.

Former UL Football Coach Dies

November 17, 2005 – Faulkinberry, 77, remembered as someone who shaped lives.

Bruce Brown

Russ Faulkinberry cast a big shadow as a football coach at the University of Louisiana from 1961 to 1973, and his legacy grew larger as his players went on to succeed in their lives after college.

Faulkinberry died at age 77 on Wednesday at Lafayette General Medical Center after an extended illness. His former players remembered him as someone who helped shape their lives beyond the playing field.

"I was an only child," said Nate Thornton, who played at UL from 1970 to 1974, "and after what he came and told my mother, Notre Dame could have offered me a scholarship the next day and I still would have played for him.

"He said, ‘If you let your boy come to USL, I promise he’ll get an education, he’ll go to church and he’ll be a better man.’ And I think he did all that.

"Most of us who played for him didn’t realize that until after our careers were over."

It was Faulkinberry who invented the mascot "Ragin’ Cajuns" to describe UL athletes, since the majority of his players came from South Louisiana. His teams were 66-62-2 during his stay at the school.

Nelson Schexnayder played on the 1970 Cajun team and later served as the school’s athletic director. He said Faulkinberry taught his players lessons that lasted a lifetime.

"The thing I remember is his intensity," Schexnayder said. "He demanded the best of us. He told us to do everything we could to be successful, and as a result we had success as a team."

But Coach Faulkinberry also had a soft heart, said Edward Pratt, who played from 1964 to 1967.

"You respected him and came to realize that he loved his players," Pratt said.

He also inspired those who worked alongside him. UL Dean Raymond Blanco was an assistant coach under Faulkinberry.

"I came to this university because of Coach Faulkinberry," he said. "Anybody who was ever around him will always have a part of their lives influenced by him."

And that influence is part of his legacy, said Lafayette businessman O’Neal Weber, a quarterback under Faulkinberry from 1962 to 1965.

Weber recalled the hard years leading up to the 1965 Gulf States Conference title that marked a turning point.

"During the four years before we started winning, it was plain hell," Weber said. "He disciplined you, but it was for your own good. He was like your father. He gave us things we needed to have to pass on to our kids, and to their kids."

Weber and Jim Doyle were among those who helped organize a tribute to Faulkinberry last summer, attended by dozens of his former players.

"In a way, that was an opportunity for him to feel and see what we thought of him," Doyle said. "Sometimes, those things go unspoken, but it gave many of us a chance to say a special goodbye."

Originally published November 17, 2005