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Obituary: Russell “Russ” Miller Faulkinberry – Head Football Coach 1961-73 – November 16, 2005

Coach Faulkinberry’s Obituary originally published in the Daily Advertiser, November 18, 2005

Russell Miller Faulkinberry

LAFAYETTE – Funeral services will be held at a noon Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005, at Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church for Russell Miller Faulkinberry, 77, who passed away Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005, at Lafayette General Medical Center.

Interment will take place at Lafayette Memorial Park.

The Rev. Monsignor Harry Benefiel will officiate the services and con-celebrant will be the Rev. Chester Arceneaux.

Coach Russ Faulkinberry was born in 1928 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. to Maggie and Coach Frank Faulkinberry Sr., who was head football coach at Middle Tennessee State College at the time.
In the 1940’s, Russ played football, basketball and track in high school. He made all Mid-South in all three sports. He was captain of the football and basketball teams and was awarded the Headmaster’s Award for Exceptional Merit. Upon graduation from high school, Russ accepted a football scholarship to Vanderbilt University where he played 40 varsity football games. At the age of 18, playing alongside much older World War II veterans, Russ made the All Southeastern Conference Freshman Team. He made the All SEC Sophomore Team and was 2nd Team All SEC in his Senior season. In addition, he was captain of the 1950 team. In 1951, he played in the Senior Bowl game and was awarded 3rd Team All American.

After college, Russ became head coach of football and basketball at Gallatin, Tenn. High School. In 1952 during the Korean War, he entered the U.S. Navy and was able to continue his coaching career as head coach of the 1952 Navy NTC football team the Wave (women’s) basketball team.

In 1956, Russ left the Navy to become line coach at Southeastern Louisiana University. That year, they won the Gulf States Conference Championship. In succession, he served as an assistant coach for Iowa State, Texas A&M and the University of Nebraska before becoming head football coach at USL in 1961. In 1963, he changed the team nickname from "Bulldogs" to "Ragin’ Cajuns". Later, the nickname was picked as the best in the nation, winning out over 354 other colleges.

Faulkinberry teams won the Gulf States Conference Championship in 1965, 1968 and 1970. The 1970 team played in an NCAA Bowl, the Grantland Rice Bowl, in Baton Rouge, La. Further, the 1970 team had the best single season record in the 97-year history of ULL Football with 9 wins, 2 losses, 0 ties, 0 forfeits. Unknown to most, the 1970 squad had six future medical doctors, three judges and countless successful CEO’s, of which he was very proud. Russ Faulkinberry was named Conference Coach of the Year four times and was once named Louisiana Coach of the Year. After leaving ULL, he served one year as an assistant coach for the Jacksonville Sharks WFL team.

For the next 15 years, Russ was an administrator for alcohol and drug programs in hospitals. In 1979, he served as National Chairperson for the National Drug Abuse Conference (6,000 professionals). He produced an international drug convention, the largest of its kind. Subsequently, Russ was invited to speak at an international convention in Rome, Italy. While there, he served as an Emissary of the Diocese of Lafayette to Pope John Paul I.

After retiring, he was once again pressed into service as a football coach. In the spring of 1997, at age 68, he was asked to become Jake Delhomme’s private coach and he also worked with Brandon Stokley. For the next five years, Jake and Russ worked together and Jake responded with a NFL Europe title. In 1999, Jake got his first NFL start for the Saints and John Madden awarded Delhomme with a MVP watch. Jake presented the watch to Coach Faulkinberry two days later. With Russ’ off-season advice and hard work, Jake improved to take the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Jake was a runner-up for the MVP award.

Russ was selected to the All American Coach’s Hall of Fame in 2000. As of 2005, Russ is the winningest coach in the 97-year Ragin’ Cajun football history. He was also named coach of the quarter century team. Russ attributed good coaches, good assistants and players, along with a lot of luck, for his successes.

Survivors include his wife, Bonnie Faulkinberry, of Lafayette; children, Lee Faulkinberry Morgan and husband, Jim, of Orlando, Fla., Mary Faulkinberry Helenius and husband, Carl, of Tampa, Fla., and their two children, Christian Russell Helenius and Linnea Frances Helenius; four step-children, Isaac Hanks and his wife, Melissa, of Baton Rouge, La., and their children, Emily, Sara, and Ashley Hanks, Robert Hanks and his wife, Mollie, of Crowley, La., and their children, Matthew, Nicholas and Isabelle Hanks, Cherami Hanks Bass and husband, Aaron, of Baton Rouge, La., and their children Lauryn, Claire and Tyler Bass, and Mitchell Hanks, of Covington, La.

He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Frank Faulkinberry Jr.; and sister, Mary "Tee" Faulkinberry Bettes.

Visitation will be observed from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. today and will continue from 8 a.m. Saturday until the time of services.

A rosary will be prayed at 7 p.m. this evening.

Pallbearers will be Jim Doyle, Mickey Faulkinberry, Carl Helenius, Jim Morgan, Edward Pratt, Edwin Preis, Tom Pritchard and O’Neal Weber.

Honorary pallbearers will be Brian Soignier, Jake Delhomme, Isaac Hanks, Robert Hanks, Aaron Bass, Mitchell Hanks and all former football players.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Coach Russ Faulkinberry Memorial Athletic Fund. Send donations to UL Office of Development. P. O. Drawer 43410, Lafayette, LA 70504.

Personal condolences may be sent to the Faulkinberry family at www.delhommefuneralhome.com

Delhomme Funeral Home, 1011 Bertrand Drive, Lafayette, (337) 235-9449, is in charge of all funeral arrangements.

Originally published November 18, 2005

Please go to his profile for the eulogy and other stories written about Coach Faulkinberry.