When the Alabama Football Coaches Association formed in 2005, it needed a sponsor quickly to help get it off the ground and running. Russell Athletics stepped up immediately and the ALFCA soon became an important part of the high school football landscape because of Russell’s commitment.
Stepping up when there was a need was nothing unusual for Russell. The company was originally founded in 1902 when a fire destroyed most of Alexander City, Alabama. Benjamin Russell rallied to build a hospital, hotel, grocery store and telephone operation. He also started a tiny textile mill with 10 sewing machines and 8 knitting machines. Today, we know this as Russell Corporation.
Russell was a strong believer in cotton garments and sports. Cotton was king in the south during the early part of the century and so was football. In later years it was Russell Mills that created the first cotton sweatshirt in 1930, an idea of Russell’s son Benny. During World War II, Russell’s athletic division primarily provided the U.S. military with shirts, underwear, T shirts and other outer garments specifically for the Army and Navy. Again, stepping up when needed was nothing new for this company. In the 1960s, Russell became the largest manufacturer of athletic apparel in the nation.
Russell has always believed in teams and competition. In 2011, they started their Together We R to unite all athletes under the spirit of teamwork. In 2012 Russell started its “Fight Like Dylan” contest honoring the life of Dylan Rebeor, a terminally ill patient whose dream was for his team to have new uniforms. Since 2012, Russell has awarded a $50,000 grant yearly to a high school sports team that has used inspiring perseverance to overcome odds and achieve success through teamwork. It is called the “Fight Like Dylan Award.” In 2015 Russell started its Team On campaign, celebrating and defending high school team sports in America.
Danny Moore of Russell Corporation says that the company’s commitment to the ALFCA is really very simple. “We are committed to the high school athlete and have a desire to support them in any manner that we can. The best way to get to the athletes is through the coaches. We are certainly proud of our association with the ALFCA and hope to continue our commitment to the players, teams and coaches of the state of Alabama.”
ALFCA Executive Director Jack Wood says that a large part of the reason that ALFCA exists is because of Russell. “They helped get us off the ground floor and over the last 12 years have been with us every step along the way. Our convention, banquet and all other things we are involved with have happened because of our relationship with Russell. We encourage all of our members to support Russell every opportunity that they can.”
Russell continues to be one of the leaders at the top of the athletic apparel industry and a supplier for teams of all sports in the state of Alabama, just as they have been for decades.