Donnie Russell2014 Eddie Robinson Award
Edna Karr head baseball coach Donnie Russell considers himself blessed to be in his current position. After growing up on the playgrounds of New Orleans, he attended Grambling State University and then returned to his hometown to help other young aspiring athletes reach their own goals.
While considering himself blessed, he by no means has an easy job as the baseball coach at Karr High School. With no baseball fields on the school grounds, the Cougars split practice time on a football field and at an indoor facility – paying five dollars per person, despite not being able to practice fly balls or pitch off a mound. They played their games at Delgado Community College.
During his first three seasons as the head coach at Karr, Russell experienced success – he has an overall record of 64-38, never having suffered a losing season. But this past year, the Cougars finished with a 22-2 record and became the first Orleans Parish public school to both host and win a baseball playoff game since the mid-1980s. Their 21-1 regular season record gave them the best winning percentage in the state; they also captured the District 10-4A title this season. It’s the first district title in the history of the school known more for its prowess in football and basketball.
“Believe it or not, at Karr, you’re expected to win,” Russell told The New Orleans Advocate. “Even the baseball team. That’s just the nature of the school. The school is so competitive, academically as well as in athletics. The baseball team wants to do well because they don’t want to be the one team that isn’t good.”
After his team’s outstanding 2014 campaign, Russell has been chosen as the recipient of the 2014 Eddie Robinson Award by the Sports Selection Committee of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The award is presented annually to an athlete, coach, team or athletic administrator in the state of Louisiana who has demonstrated the qualities most closely associated with Coach Robinson: outstanding achievement in athletics, academics, sportsmanship, and citizenship by maximizing the use of limited resources.
“We aren’t fortunate to have the luxuries that some teams have, but on game day we are fortunate just to be on somebody’s field playing,” Russell told The New Orleans Advocate.
A 1980 graduate of St. Augustine High School, Russell was truly honored to receive an award named for the legendary Robinson, who was coaching at Grambling during Russell’s collegiate days as a baseball catcher.
“Being big, Coach Rob would often ask me to come out for football and be his pulling guard,” Russell recalls. “I told him that I was a baseball player. I belong to Coach [Wilbert] Ellis. It was hard to tell him no with all of the All Americans he had.”