Red Wing names football field after popular coach
RED WING — An emotional day for Russ Marshall's family ended with tears of joy Monday night when the Red Wing School Board voted to rename its varsity football field after the longtime coach.
Marshall spent four decades coaching in the Wingers football program and has been widely lauded as a "maker of men" by his former athletes. A push to rename the field in his honor began in January after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Red Wing Superintendent Karsten Anderson told the ailing Marshall and his family on June 2 that the field would be renamed during a special school board meeting held June 5. However, Anderson forgot to publicly post that meeting, as required by state law, and the vote was pushed back until Monday.
The man affectionately known as Cougar died Monday afternoon, hours before the vote was held. He was 69 years old. Many within the Wingers community — including daughter, Jamie — responded to the school board's unanimous vote by changing their social media profile pictures to the eyes of a cougar.
The Red Wing Athletic Field will now be called Russ 'Cougar' Marshall Field.
"It was incredible," Jamie Marshall said. "We never realized how many lives he touched. The petition and the Facebook comments and the emails, it's all been in support of the renaming and how great he was. We love it."
Marshall's funeral will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Red Wing, but a time and date have yet to be decided.
The Red Wing School Board agreed to rearrange Monday's agenda in order to accommodate the grieving family. Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, was one who spoke in favor of renaming the field after Marshall prior to the unanimous vote being held.
"Every child needs someone to believe in them," said Kelly, who played for Russ and had three kids do likewise. "He was certainly that guy. It was so much more than the game. He was always about teaching kids life lessons."
Despite the public support and unanimous vote, renaming the field after Marshall was a non-traditional decision. It's the first athletic facility in Red Wing named after a former coach. Marshall also spent most of his career coaching freshmen, never once serving as the head varsity coach.
Still, Paul Schmit — Red Wing's varsity football coach for most of Marshall's career — has referred to Marshall as "larger than life."
"If you're going to name something after somebody, I can't think of a better person," said Red Wing Athletic Director Matt Schultz. "He's been a rite of passage for men in Red Wing for 40-some years. It's pretty special to span generations like that."
Added Kelly: "Everybody has a Russ story. He made you feel like you were in a club, and he made it so everybody wanted to be a part of that club."
Specific plans to commemorate the field's new name have yet to be made, Schultz said, but the area behind high school building is now filled with memorials to two popular football coaches who were also close friends. Kevin Horvat dedicated a "Ring of Honor" that's designed as a memorial to people of all races, religions and backgrounds.
Horvat was the varsity head coach in 2007. He died in 2009 after a two-year battle with Parkinson's disease.