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Schwartz proved to be Trojans’ ‘quiet’ leader for ‘70s football Trojans
August 30, 2012
MADISON, S.D. – On a late fall Saturday in 1978, Russ Schwartz plucked a football out of midair and rambled 90 yards for an interception touchdown against Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls).
The score by the Trojans' defensive back brought Dakota State to within two points, 13-15, of the Cougars, who had just failed to complete a pass on a fake field goal attempt.
Dakota State outscored SFC 20-0 from that point on to post a 33-15 win, capping an 8-2 campaign, and ending up with a perfect 6-0 SDIC season, giving the Trojans their fourth-straight conference title. (SFC and Dakota State had been tied for the conference title heading into that game.)
Schwartz, with that touchdown reception, only did what Al Weisbecker, his defensive coordinator, expected of the senior from Estelline, S.D.
"I recruited Russ after refereeing a basketball game at Estelline in Russ's senior year," said Weisbecker, now retired and the Executive Director of the South Dakota Senior Games. "He was really quick then, too. He came from nowhere to steal the basketball, go down the court and score on a lay-up."
Later that spring in 1976, Schwartz decided, however, to attend Northern State. His stay at the Aberdeen college, though was a very, very short two-day 'visit.'
"Turned out, I just didn't like it there," said Schwartz.
"A few days later he came to Madison and walked on here at Dakota State," added Weisbecker. "As a result, he became a four-year starter for us. In his day, he was probably the best defensive back in the SDIC. He was a tough football player who played the game with a lot of heart."
The Trojans in the four years Schwartz started amassed a 32-7 record, including a perfect 10-0 record in the 1977 season.
"We had no superstars on that team," said Schwartz. "Everyone played their position well. I'll admit it; we wanted to win every game and the SDIC championship in '77."
"Schwartz was a leader-by-example kind of player," said Mark Merrigan who also played on defense with Schwartz.
"Russ was a 'quiet' leader for us," said Merrigan, now on staff in the Deuel school district. "He just went out and got the job done."
Watching Schwartz play from the sidelines was Lee Threadgold, one of the Trojans' tight ends.
"Russ flat out was an extremely hard-hitting player who was a ball hawk, playing coverages very well on every play," added Threadgold, now a sales representative for Prostrollo's All-American Auto Mall.
After that final game against Sioux Falls College, Schwartz earned All-SDIC, All-District 12 and honorable mention NAIA All-American honors.
The rural Estelline native was named as an honorable mention All-SDIC as a sophomore. He made the first team as a junior.
This past summer, Schwartz helped out on the Schwartz family farm. He has since returned to Crow Creek where he begins his fifth year teaching health and physical education courses. Before that, Schwartz held similar positions at Pine Ridge.
After graduating from Dakota State, Schwartz spent 22 years in Iowa as both a farm operator and a sales representative for a number of companies.
He has two daughters – Brittany (22 years old), who lives in Sioux Falls, and Shandra (16 years old), who attends Chester High School. Mitchell, his 18-year-old son, is attending Lake Area Technical School in Watertown, S.D.
Dan Holsworth, Dakota State University Athletics Assistant
Edited by Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Sports Information Director