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Russell Craig Gary

Russell Craig Gary

NFL Football Player and Youth Worker

Born: Minneapolis, MN, United States
Heritage: African American

Never give up and never quit. You can be what you want to be. By being on a team you learn a lot of things. People depend on you, you have teammates that depend on you. You’re playing for the team and not just for yourself, people share and help each other and know each other. I enjoy life and live it to the fullest every day. That’s why I work with kids. They give me something and it’s joy and fulfillment. They keep me young.

Russell Craig Gary

NFL Football Player and Youth Worker

Russell Craig Gary
NFL Football Player and Youth Worker

My name is Russell Craig Gary. I was born July 31, 1959. I was born on the Southside of Minneapolis. Ever since I was kid I’ve always enjoyed sports. My father was one of the first black coaches in the state of Kansas. My mother and father were both professors and they stress academics. They made sure I did school work. My parents kept me on the straight and narrow.

I have two older brothers and three older sisters. My brothers played football, basketball and track. I tagged along with my brothers and got into athletics. When in high school I excelled pretty good in all sports. Played basketball, football and ran track.

In my senior year made all-state in football, basketball and track, which was unique. I went to the University of Nebraska on a football scholarship. Coach Osborne was honest and fair with me and looked me in the eye I could get an education and if I was good enough in school I could play. Andre Franklin and I were the first freshmen to play on the varsity team and go to the Rose Bowl. My senior year I made All- American. I played in the Senior Bowl and then I played in the East West Shrine Game for the Shriners Hospitals.

After my senior year I got drafted into the NF L in 1981. I was the first pick in the second round to the New Orleans Saints. I was a strong safety in defense. I played for the Saints for six and half years and then I was sent to the Philadelphia Eagles. When I played football, you weren’t free. Now there’s a thing called free agency when you sign a contract. When I grew up the team owned you, it was like a slave mentality. I couldn’t leave. They wouldn’t let me go.

I had friends who went down the wrong path. You have to do the right thing and make the right choices. I was happy and God blessed me with good talent, parents, brothers and people who help me out. I have a son who is 21 years old and he lives in New Orleans and goes to University of Tulane. His name is Russell Craig Jr. I have a daughter named Letricia, she goes to the University of New Orleans. My family is my most prized possession.

All my football honors and trophies and pro and college awards were lost because of Katrina. All of it is gone. The rings are gone. Everything I had I left with my son, and his house is gone. It affected me mentally and emotionally because of the way the people of New Orleans were being dealt with. That affected me more than property. It affected me how the government didn’t do anything for the people. When I think about that it touches my heart and I wish there was more I could do to help out.

The worst racism is hidden racism and we have that in the north. You can’t be scared. You can’t live your life scared. You need someone to identify with that is your own race, so you can have someone to talk with, who shares something happening in your culture. When you don’t know your own neighbors it’s tough. When young we all looked out for each other. It takes a village to raise children.

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It’s A Crime

Honoring Russell Craig Gary

It’s A Crime
Honoring Russell Craig Gary

It’s a crime what they’re doing down in New Orleans
It’s crime what they’re doing down there
My name is Russell Craig Gary, I lived on the south side
Across the alley from school, still I couldn’t get there on time
I would wait ‘til the last minute, my father coached football
Two brothers and three sisters, played since I was small
Track and basketball and football was my life
If I didn’t do my homework or get my grades right
Mother and father wouldn’t let me play, had to do what they said
Sure enough I did homework before I went to bed
I played football all day long, then would go inside
Shooting hoops with a homemade rim with my brothers all the time
As a matter of fact we had the same team with the same starting guys
From fifth grade through high school, older boys I idolized
In my senior year made all-state in basketball, football, track
With a scholarship off I went, no time to look back
To Nebraska, Cornhusker State, first freshman on the varsity
With Andre to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee
Where Andre and me made history in the Senior Bowl
Got drafted by the NF L to New Orleans I did go
Out of college into pro-sports at the age of twenty-one
Bought a brand new Porsche, 604, had lots of fun
When you do good in one thing, helps in others things too
Make the right choice, do your best in everything you do
A strong safety in defense with the Saints way down there
In the 9th ward, they might be poor, but they showed me how to care
Without free trade, I was a slave to the NFL
I could not fight, they owned my rights, all I had was up for sale
The trophies, rings, everything I left with my son
In New Orleans all I had got lost in the flood
But there’s one thing that troubles me more than all of that
It’s a government that makes the poor go pass the hat
Friends in FEMA trailers from Atlanta to Houston
If you are poor they’ll slam the door on you in Washington
Now I work in the schools as an urban liaison
Social worker, counselor, now an elder for this song
Listen to your parents and to your teachers, too
Set your goals to get there - then follow through
If you want to be a basketball star, or the President
Or garbage collector, be the best at it
Don’t let anyone keep you from what you want to be
Do it all to your fullest and you will be happy

Words & music by Larry Long with Coleman Nemerov’s 5th Grade Class North Park Elementary School (Columbia Heights, Minnesota).

© Larry Long 2007 / BMI

Listen: It's a Crime