Skip to main content
Chargers Homepage

Chargers Official Site | Los Angeles Chargers -

Chargers Mourn Loss of Russ Washington
The tackle played 15 seasons for the Chargers and was a member of the team's Hall of Fame as well as the Bolts' 40th and 50th Anniversary Teams.
By Hayley Elwood Aug 07, 2021

Former Chargers tackle, Russ Washington, passed away at the age of 74.

Chargers Statement on the passing of Russ Washington

The passing of Big Roo – a nickname teammates gave Russ because of his R.E.W. initials, not to mention his 6-foot-7, 295 frame – is a tremendous loss for the Chargers organization. If you know football, you know the offensive line Russ helped anchor was one of the best to ever line up in the trenches. A five-time Pro Bowler, Chargers Hall of Fame inductee and member of our 50th Anniversary team who started 196 of his 200 games, the superlatives still don't do Russ justice. He dismantled defenders on the line while Dan Fouts became the first quarterback in NFL history to record three consecutive 4,000 yard passing seasons. Years later, it took none other than legendary gamer Philip Rivers to break Russ' franchise record of 148 consecutive starts. And all the while, this unassuming mountain of a man who seemingly never got mad simply went about his business – save for the occasional locker room prank just to keep the guys on their toes. Our hearts and thoughts are with the Washington family during this difficult time as we mourn the loss of a true Chargers legend.

Washington was selected fourth-overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 1968 AFL/NFL Common Draft out of Missouri. He played for the Bolts from 1968-1982 where he spent the first two seasons at defensive tackle before he moved to right tackle for the final 13 seasons of his career.

Big Roo was a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, and was named to the Chargers' 40th Anniversary Team, 50th Anniversary team, and was inducted in the team's Hall of Fame in 1995.

Remembering Big Roo

Here are some of Russ Washington's former teammates on his life and legacy.

I think more about Russ and his personality. Everybody knows what a great player he was.  The athleticism just amazed you for a guy who was around 300-pounds and 6-6. He was a hurdler in college. I mean, come on! He had finesse and agility. 

There were some times though that his sense of humor would take over. He had the perfect partner next to him in the huddle in Big Ed [White.] There were times in practice when they would be cutting it up and I'd have to tell them to knock it off and concentrate! They were just so funny. I think the brotherhood of that offensive line was really unique and Big Roo was such a huge part of it.

I remember when Russ injured his knee against the Raiders, and one of the guys who was affected was [Raiders DE] John Matuszak. Russ was blocking him and I remember Matuszak kneeling there and asking Roo if he was okay. That just shows you the respect that this huge human being had from his opponents.

It just hurts a lot. To lose so many teammates in the last year and guys like Moosie [Doug Wilkerson] and Roo, guys who protected me, I just can't thank them enough. – Dan Fouts, Hall of Fame quarterback

He was a gentle giant. He was incredible, fun, amazing, and relaxed off the field, but when the whistle blew, he turned into a different a person. He was a quiet assassin, but he was huge and athletic and a great, great player.

Everybody loved him. There's not a person on our team who didn't love Russ, and that's hard to find. I bet you can't find a person who can't say they didn't love him as a teammate and a person. – Hank Bauer, running back

He was such a kind soul. He was always thinking about other people. I'll remember just the smile on his face and I never heard him say a bad word about anybody all the time I was there. He was a dominating player. His athleticism was off the charts. He was an exceptional athlete, just very smooth and always played at such a high level. All the guys I played with on that line played at such high levels that it caused all of us to match the play.

It's a game of large egos and sometimes that distorts personalities. I don't know if Russell had that kind of ego at all. He was very quiet and to himself, but I got to know him as well as anybody and he was just a very simple-living person.

At the top of his list was kindness and happiness and joy, and that's what he had. He achieved that and I know that's where he's at right now. – Ed White, guard

The guy was always gentle and kind and nice. He should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, this guy could play. I knew that he was a high school hurdler and thought, this dude could run the hurdles? He was never moody, he never yelled, he never raised his voice. He was always 'Smooth Roo.' 

I loved the guy. You won't find a person who played with him who would say anything ill willed about the guy. He was just the perfect teammate. 

He wasn't a rah-rah guy, but you knew how good he was. He was a phenomenal football player.  He was a cornerstone. If you knew you had Roo, you knew you had a serious tackle who was going to protect. – Pete Shaw, safety

Russell was a consummate leader, who wouldn't have to speak above the tone of a librarian and people would follow his lead. He was just special. He was so smooth and so precise; he would practice, and it was so effortless I don't think he would sweat. He was so polished.

The thing about Big Roo was, I only played one year with him, so I got to know him on a different level. When he retired, we stayed in touch and did everything together. We took bowling lessons. We would go to Miramar. The thing that amazed me most about Russell, everything he picked up that he'd never done before, he excelled at immediately. He won the Missouri high school 100m hurdle championships! He had that innate ability.

He was humble, had no airs about him, he was polite. I don't think I ever saw him mad. I'd be throwing clubs, breaking clubs at a golf course ruining everybody's day, and one time I threw the club away, he went and got it!

I think you've got one of the best, arguably, to ever play the game, and he's not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He should be there. – Dennis McKnight, guard

back to top

From Our Partners