Former Alabama forward Charles “Boonie” Russell was with his old teammates celebrating the 40th anniversary of their 1974 SEC championship during the Alabama-Auburn game earlier this year when Russell was approached by a woman from the stands.
The 6-foot-4 Russell helped Alabama to a 22-4 record in 1974 and it was the first of three consecutive SEC championships the Crimson Tide won under former head coach C.M. Newton.
But according to this story from Tommy Deas of the Tuscaloosa News, Russell didn’t know why 76-year-old Alabama fan Martha Ann Wyatt was approaching him.
“I have something that belongs to you,” Martha Ann Wyatt said.
Russell didn’t know what to say. He had no idea what she was talking about.
“I have your SEC championship ring,” she said. “I want you to have it back. I want to give it to you.”
Russell hadn’t seen that ring since the late 1970s, when he loaned it to a friend who needed money. The plan was that the friend would pawn it, then buy it back out of hock and return it.
Before that happened, Russell left the country to begin a 20-year career playing basketball in South and Central America. By the time he returned, the ring was long gone.
Russell soon made plans with Wyatt to get his SEC championship ring back. The ring hadn’t even been on Russell’s mind for many years.
“To be honest about it, I had just totally forgotten about it,” Russell said to Deas. “It was like it didn’t even exist anymore.”
Wyatt, a collector of Alabama sports memorabilia, acquired the ring for $50 when a friend spotted the ring at a pawn shop. She had displayed the ring in a case at her home since then and the ring included Russell’s number — 32 — and last name.
When Russell came back for the reunion, season-ticket holder Wyatt exchanged information with him so he could get his long-lost SEC championship ring.
Russell finally got the ring back last week from Wyatt’s home on his 61st birthday and the duo celebrated with cake and homemade vanilla ice cream to complete a really cool and unique story.