AS WASHINGTON IS OF- ten mentioned as the father of our country, Rus- sell is equally referred to
as the proud papa of the modern day
spread offense that burns like wildfire across Texas high school football
fields from Amarillo to Brownsville
and all points in between.
Deep in the Pineywoods of East
Texas, towering shortleaf, longleaf
and loblolly decorate the landscape
with an esthetic beauty that can literally take your breath away. About
the only thing as plentiful as pines
in this area is spread offenses.
And they, too, will make you stir the
senses with an unbelievable frenetic pace. If you blink, you may miss a
drive. That’s because possessions
generally last about as long as a
A coach once told me he abhorred
punting the ball and would just as
soon go for fourth-and- 15 as he
would fourth-and-a-foot. Welcome
to the age of the NASCAR offense.
It’s a feast-or-famine existence
and coaches are usually okay with
the results, especially when state
championships are in the offing.
Getting to where we are today did
not happen overnight. There was a
time when offenses ran three yards
and a cloud of dust. That’s gone
way of the drive-in picture show.
Nowadays, nearly 50 percent of
East Texas squads run some variation of the spread.
A sport once dominated by the
Wing-T, Veer and Wishbone began
to surrender to the forward pass.
The UIL allowed 7-on- 7 passing
leagues to sprout up all across
the state in 1998 and high school
coaches took advantage of the op-
portunity to grow the vertical game.
Russell, who passed away in
1983 at the age of 90, never got
to see his offense flourish at the
level it does today. The vaunted
offense, born in 1927, was devised
by Russell inasmuch for his team’s
self-preservation as any success
they might have.
The site of Russell’s creation was
Fort Worth Masonic Home. It served
as a school and boarding house for
orphaned boys. The Mighty Mites,
as they were known, lacked physical size to match up with most opponents. It was thought, by Russell,
that the spread would at least give
his tots the opportunity to avoid
Today teams run the spread,
might very well
are, he’d stand
with how much
his baby has
BY GEORGE WHITLEY
Born in 1927, the spread
offense has skyrocketed
to new levels
Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy (left) and
SMU coach Rusty Russell before the 1951
SMU-Notre Dame game at South Bend.