Times-Herald Staff Writer
Bobby Russell always had a tough time choosing.
Russell played football, basketball, and track throughout a long sports career. He also switched from Vallejo High School to Hogan after his sophomore season in 1961.
He even gets to take his pick upon induction into the Vallejo Hall of Fame today with the 1962 Hogan High School football team also being inducted.
Russell spent two seasons with the Spartans, helping them to the North Bay League championship in the school's first season.
"It's huge. Going in twice in one night. I'm getting a little nervous," Russell said. "There going to be guys there I haven't seen in a long time."
Being inducted along with his teammates means a little bit more to Russell considering Hogan is closing after this year. Russell said that it was sad to see and that he and the other players have a lot of Spartan pride.
A product of the Greater Vallejo Recreation District sports programs growing up, Russell played every single sport but baseball. He probably would have played baseball too if it didn't coincide with track and field.
"I'm old school. We tried to play a lot of sports growing up. Now they pick a sport and that's their sport." Russell said.
Russell's greatest asset was speed.
He helped the Apaches' "B" track team capture the Northern California championship in the 440-meter relay and 180-meter hurdles. He also played on the junior varsity basketball as a guard and the junior varsity football team as a running back.
He joined a mass exodus of talent that left Vallejo High when Hogan opened in 1962. Russell found success playing varsity in all three sports with the Spartans.
Most notable was the football team that year, led by Vallejo Hall of Famer Dick Biama. The team beat Vallejo in the final game to capture the league title. Russell played running back and defensive back on that team.
He would eventually earn All-City, North Bay League, County and Northern California honors as a defensive back in his senior season.
"We were raw and didn't have reputation, but we quickly got that and some swagger," he said.
In basketball, Russell won all-league as a guard and in track he qualified for the state championship in the 100-yard dash. Russell eventually made his way to Vallejo Junior College but injuries plagued his time there.
He pulled a hamstring during his first season on the track team then reinjured it during the football season. Russell missed all of the 1965 season, but that did not stop Cal State Hayward from recruiting him to the football and track team. The Hayward coaches met four athletes from Vallejo Junior College at the now defunct Terry's Coffee Shop in Vallejo.
All four were taken, including Russell.
"I hadn't really done anything. Thank God they took me despite the hamstring," Russell said.
He joined a rebuilding Cal State Hayward football team that went 2-8 in its inaugural season. He'd eventually be named to the Far West Conference Player of the Year twice and named to the all-defensive team four times. Russell also won All-American honors in the 440-meter relay during his two years on the team.
Perhaps his greatest moment on the football team happened on a smoggy day in Bakersfield. Russell took a kickoff in the end zone and ended up going 106 yards for the touchdown against Occidental College. That set an NCAA record at the time.
"That probably would never happen again because most kids would kneel down for the touch back," Russell said. "It was so smoggy that I couldn't see. I thought I was on the five yard line."
Russell graduated from Cal State Hayward and went on to teach Physical Education and History in the Napa Valley School district. He also coached track and football at Silverado Middle School and football at Vintage and Napa high schools.