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North Middlesex icon Russ Woollacott will be honored

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TOWNSEND — No matter what endeavor he undertook over a long and productive career in the North Middlesex School District as both a teacher and a coach, Russ Woollacott went out and proved every day that he understood what was important. For all he has given, in a selfless and consistent manner, Russ will be honored at the Thankgiving Day football game between North Middlesex and Nashoba.

Woollacott will receive the Football Alumnus of the Year Award, presented by the North Middlesex Regional High School Football Alumni Association.

“Russ will receive this award for his 34 years of service as both a teacher and coach,” said North Middlesex head football coach Sandy Ruggles. “No one person has had more impact on the student-athletes at North Middlesex than Russ Woollacott.”

Woollacott started at North Middlesex as a coach in 1974, and at the Peter Fitzpatrick School as a teacher. The football team was under the guidance of Bruce Morse that season, and Woollacott was both the varsity offensive line coach and the freshman coach.

Frank Bettencourt became the head coach for North Middlesex from 1975 to 1980, and Russ was an assistant varsity coach during that span.

When Sandy Ruggles came on board as the Patriot mentor in 1980, Wollacott was the offensive and defensive line coach for 15 years. When Ruggles departed and John Margarita took over at the helm, Russ had the same job description from 1995 to 1999.

“I left in 2000 and was away for four years because I went to follow my sons in college football,” said Woollacott. “When John Margarita came back to coach in 2005, I returned and I continued in 2008 and 2009 after Sandy Ruggles came back.”

Woollacott was a key member of the coaching staff during the Ruggles’ regime when the program hit its zenith, including seven consecutive Super Bowl appearances, but that is not what drove Woollacott.

“There were some very high points during that time,” said Russ. “But to me it was always a pleasure to go to practice. I made a decision in 1974 about what I wanted to do with my life, and whether we won or we lost, it was a joy to go to work. I can’t say enough about the guys I worked with. All of them are true friends and we still correspond with each other. There were no egos among the coaches and everyone just did what needed to be done for the best of the program.”

Russ was also a fixture on the track team, which he coached with Bob Day for 20 years, and takes great pride in one facet of that coaching experience.

“I was the pole vaulting coach,” he said.

When Margarita returned as head coach, the decision to return to the sidelines was an easy one for Woollacott.

“It was great to come back,” he said. “The urge to coach was still there and John Margarita being the head coach and John Jamieson being on the coaching staff were drawing cards. I was the offensive and defensive line coach, but John Margarita went out of his way to make me an assistant head coach, something he didn’t really need to do.”

Woollacott understands the atmosphere that was created at North Middlesex.

“As both a parent and a coach, there was always a family atmosphere in place,” said Russ. “It was important that we dealt with the kids more than just on the field, as far as keeping an eye on their grades and trying to help them to get into college. Our main goal was to make sure the kids had fun. The philosophy was fun time with a purpose. I was glad every day I got to go to North Middlesex.”

Woollacott was the recipient of the Massachusetts Assistant Coach of the Year Award in 1988, which epitomizes what he contributed and the way he did it. Just what does this upcoming award mean to him?

“This is an award for all the assistant coaches I have worked with,” Russ said. “It means that the North Middlesex kids around me have done a good job and have become productive people. I will accept this award for the assistant coaches and what they meant to the kids of North Middlesex. It is very rewarding to see the kids come back to the school and contribute to the program they used to play in.”

Woollacott will again wear the moniker of coach in the spring when he will return to the North Middlesex track team.

“I love the sport of track and I will be coming back to help John Margarita with the shot putters, discus throws and javelin throwers,” said Russ. Coach Ralph Wolfendale has done a great job there and the coaches in the program enjoy coaching and the kids.”

One last thing.

Woollacott will be the pole vaulting coach.

Some things never change.