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Blugold Hall of Fame
Russ Knutson

Russ Knutson played football for Hall of Fame coach Ade Olson in 1954, then spent time in the military before returning to Eau Claire to finish his career for Hall of Fame coach Jim Rice from 1959 through 1961. He led the conference in rushing in 1961 when he was also named the Blugold team MVP. He had a 5.6 per carry average during his final three seasons, the second best average in school history. He was All-Conference in both 1960 and 1961 when he accounted for 12 rushing and receiving touchdowns.

After graduating from Colfax High School in the spring of 1954, Knutson enrolled at UWEC after his speed had caught the eye of Blugold coach Ade Olson. But being from a family of 12, Knutson felt he must find a way to support himself and in December of 1954, the 17-year-old convinced his father to sign so he could enlist in the United States Air Force.

While in the Air Force, he was sent to the University of Syracuse to take Russian language courses. He then was stationed on Saint Lawrence Island off the coast of Russia interpreting underground information for the USAF. When his four-year stint in service was complete, Knutson returned to school with a wife and young child. He and Jim Kouba, who had also spent four years in the Air Force, were considered the "grandpas" of the Blugold football team in 1959.

During his playing days, Knutson's talents as a running back and return specialist were often demonstrated. He set a school single game rushing record with 198 yards against UW-Milwaukee in just 17 attempts. In a game against Superior in 1960, he returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 58 yards. His ability drew an inquiry from the Washington Redskins and an invite from the Canadian football league.

After graduating from UWEC, Knutson earned a master's degree in guidance and counseling from UW-Stout in 1967. His career in education included stops in Spring Valley, Sauk City, Independence and Park Falls. He served as the head football and basketball coach at Independence and was the head football, head track and assistant wrestling coach at Park Falls. When he retired in 1994, he relocated to Grantsburg where he helped his son Kirk who was the head football coach.

While his service in education touched thousands of students and student-athletes, Knutson also had an impact in the church and communities in which he lived. He has taught confirmation classes, led church services and held various offices at his church. As a community member, he has been a foster parent to children in crisis and coached Little League. He is an active member of the Lions Club and American Legion.

He and his wife Ann, who reaches out in mission to the people of Malawi, Africa, have granted scholarships to youngsters in Malawi.

His hobbies including bowling, golfing, hunting, fishing and wood-working.

He and his wife Ann have two grown children: Jodie, a UWEC alumnus, and Kirk, a PhD from UW-Madison, and four grandchildren.

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University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Athletics • McPhee 208 • Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004

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Questions/Comments: UW-Eau Claire Sports Information