Memphis, TN-Russell Vollmer, the legendary Memphis State University quarterback who guided the Tigers to an undefeated season in 1963, has passed away after battling an illness. Vollmer was 70 years of age.
Arriving at the University in 1960 after a brilliant prep career at Memphis Central High School, Vollmer began to rewrite the Tiger football record book. Despite playing behind All-America quarterback James Earl Wright as a freshman, it became apparent that Vollmer could contribute to the team in many ways including working as the defensive back, punter, kick and punt returner, as well as handling duties as the quarterback. When Wright was injured in 1961, Vollmer stepped in and helped Memphis State to a season-ending 8-2-0 record.
As a junior, Vollmer was thrust into the spotlight as Coach Billy J. Murphy’s starter and the multi-talented athlete did not disappoint. He led his team to an 8-1-0 record which included the Tigers’ first win ever over a SEC opponent. Playing in Starkville, Mississippi, Vollmer directed the team to a 28-7 victory over the Bulldogs, ironically, the alma mater of his head coach. The season’s lone loss came at the hands of the #3 ranked Ole Miss Rebels and Memphis State would finish the season ranked 17th in the final UPI poll.
The 1963 campaign, Vollmer’s senior season, could only be described as legendary. Competing against such noted programs as No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 11 Mississippi State, South Carolina and Houston, the Tigers would post a final mark of 9-0-1, the last undefeated season to date. The Tigers tied #3 ranked Ole Miss, 0-0, in Crump Stadium and would later defeat #11 ranked Mississippi State, 17-10, in a game that earned him the Associated Press National Offensive Player of the Week Award.
Vollmer was named to several All-America teams following his season. He set the Tiger records for career pass completions, career kickoff return yards and the longest punt return in school history with an 88-yard return against Ole Miss and his name listed in nine different record setting categories. Vollmer was selected to play in the annual Blue-Gray All-Star Game and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1964 NFL Draft.
He was selected to the M-Club Hall of Fame in 1983, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and the All-American Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1998.
Visitation for Vollmer is set for Thursday, August 23, from 9-11 AM, at First Baptist Church (830 New Byhalia Road, Collierville, Tenn.) with funeral services to follow immediately after the visitation.