Derek Sills had a vision.
That vision — a bronze statue of legendary Georgia Southern football coach Erk Russell — was placed in front of Paulson Stadium on Wednesday after nearly two years of fundraising and planning.
Stan Mullins, the artist who was commissioned to create the statue, learned about Russell, who died in Statesboro on Sept. 8, 2006, at the age of 80, from Sills. Mullins was inspired by a T-shirt worn by Russell for years which featured Erk’s popular saying, "One More Time," which also became the title of the statue.
Mullins wanted the statue to not only honor Russell, but to continue spreading the late coach’s message.
"Getting to know him posthumously, that’s what he would want to get across — just one more time," Mullins said. "If we take that message and really move it forward, that’s something to get you out of bed, get you moving get you motivated, get you inspired. That’s what he is."
The 9-foot statue also features the likeness of a jug of water from Beautiful Eagle Creek, a drainage ditch running through the team’s practice fields, which Russell brought on road trips during Georgia Southern playoff games.
Sills got the idea for the statue while in Newark, Del., in 2010 for a GSU semifinal playoff game against the Delaware Blue Hens. He said he wondered why all the great icons in college football had a statue, and Russell didn’t.
He got to work on the Monday that followed, and held fundraisers and took donations to make the statue possible.
"The Eagle Nation came and they gave, and now we have Erk Russell standing guard over his house, which is what we wanted," Sills said.
The statue will be unveiled at a 12:30 p.m. ceremony on Dec.1, before GSU faces Central Arkansas at 2 p.m. in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Members of the Russell family and donors to the project will be on hand.
Currently, the statue is in front of the Bishop Field House, but will be placed in a plaza on the opposite side of the stadium, in its permanent location, after construction on the Football Operations Center in the east end zone of Paulson is completed.
Construction on the FOC is expected to begin next spring.
Herald videographer Josh Aubrey contributed to this report.