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Russell D. Oliver - Faculty Profile

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Russell D. Oliver
 
Department: Coach
Position: Football, Baseball, Basketball
Service: 1935 - 1974
Taps: 1974
Culver Grad: 1931
College/Military: University of Michigan B.A.; Major, U.S.A.R. (Ret.), Major, C.M.A.
 
Head coach in the three major sports of football, basketball and baseball. A man's man! He was a great athlete at Culver, Class of '31, and a legendary nine-letter winner at Michigan. He looked like he could still "suit up." He also served as Alumni Director at Culver.

At the University of Michigan he was quarterback in 1933-34, with Gerald Ford as his center!

He was an especially innovative football coach, employing the "Oliver Twist" offense and plays like the "flying circus." He was a skilled athlete in any sport; you did not want to challenge him in squash or golf or anything else. He could demonstrate in any sport, whether it was blocking in the line, executing a blind pass in basketball, or throwing a curve ball better than anyone on the team or his assistant coaches.

His wife, Myra, who now lives in Ft. Wayne near her son, Bruce Oliver '56, attended every event, quietly supporting the team and the players. (She continued to do so long after his 1974 death!) The football field bears his name.

Along with Wally Walaitis, was inducted into Culver's inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame class in 1994.

He died five months before his retirement in 1974.

Some Memories of Russ Oliver from Bob May:

I went out for varsity football our junior year at Culver. My brother Jim, had played fullback, center and linebacker on the ‘54 Varsity and wore #20 on his jersey. Russ let me wear Jim’s number. I had always tried to follow in Jim’s footsteps, but, since I was the slowest kid on the squad, fullback was out of the question. Russ let me play center and linebacker. My football career began in Niles, Michigan our junior year when Russ yelled, “May, go in for Campbell.” Up until that time football had been a “pass time,” something to do between class and S.R.C. From then on it was a passion.

I have vivid memories of few things, but I remember a couple about Russ from our senior year. Bump Loud was a premier place kicker and I only remember once that he didn’t kick off that year. Russ asked if I wanted to kick off. I did. He never asked again.

One game, I don’t remember against who, I was middle linebacker and the opposition quarterback threw the ball straight at me. I batted the ball to the ground with the palms of both hands. I felt good about having prevented the completion. Russ called me to the sideline and told me, “Bob, you might try to catch the ball if that happens again.”

We played St. John’s Military Institute on their field that year. I’ll never forget what seemed like the “forever” bus ride. After scoring our second touchdown, Bump kicked off. The return guy ran straight up the middle of the field. He was fast. He was tough. He ran straight into me…hard. I went over backward with the runner firmly in my grasp. I laid on my back with the wind knocked out of me until Sitton and Cooley helped me, gasping for air, off the field. Russ told me, “You might get a little lower when you make a tackle.”

The highlight of my football career came at the end of our game against Washington and Clay. Tied at 19-19, with only a few seconds left, Clay had the ball on their 2 yard line. The center snapped the ball, the quarterback faded back into the end zone with the ball clutched to his belly, his back to the line. Their guard in front of me blocked our right guard, the center blocked our left guard, nobody blocked me. I caught the quarterback in the end zone for a safety and Culver won 21-19. I arrived early for practice on Monday, Russ was already there. He said to me, “Hello, Beautiful.”

The low point of my Culver Football career was the Mount Vernon, Ohio game. We were undefeated going in. A small school, small town, small but undefeated team came to Culver for our last game. We led at halftime. As we rested in the riding hall, Russ told us, “Don’t be too cocky. Mt. Vernon is a tough team and will come after us in the second half. We haven’t won yet.’ Time after time in the second half I turned loose of the ball carrier when the quarterback faked a pitchout. Mr. Vernon beat us 33-19, stole our undefeated season, Russ’ undefeated season. I don’t remember what he said after that game





As a First Class cadet in 1931


1931 Football


1931 Basketball,
Captain


1931 Baseball,
Captain