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November 6, 2010

You Can Always Come Home

I'm just a couple of hours from departing for another UGA football weekend in Athens; however, this one will be a little bit more special than all the rest.

For the first time in a long while, I'll be staying at my parents house over the weekend.  My father and mother live just outside Athens in the same house I grew up in.  I assume that tonight and tomorrow night, I'll sleep in my old room.

Tomorrow, I will be taking my three and a half year old son to his very first Georgia football game (or at least to the tailgate beforehand).  I can't say my son Trip has the same enthusiasm for the Bulldogs (yet!) as his mommy and daddy...but he sure is excited about the possibility of meeting a friend of mine and fellow tailgater, who works as a real live fireman! 

Trip is fortunate; I had to wait until I was six years old before I witnessed my first Bulldogs game in person - a 44-0 romp over Tennessee in 1981.  I still remember like it was yesterday: Herschel, Buck Belue, and that funny aroma I smelled as my parents and I walked over the bridge outside the stadium.  Years later, I would come to realize that smell was the mixture of bourbon and cigarettes.  

Coming home to Athens, Sanford Stadium, the Tennessee Vols... Suddenly, I was reminded of another homecoming of sorts that took place 38 years ago nearly to the day (and how I happened to have much of the game's footage).

There's not many Bulldog highlights from their 14-0 loss to Tennessee in 1972, and believe me, I looked.  It does feature No. 38 Larry West defending a pass between the three- and four-minute mark.  West was one of the first five African Americans signed by Georgia in December 1970 and probably played the most of the group in their first varsity season of '72.

I try to avoid posting anything concerning a former Bulldogs team and losing, but I couldn't pass this up.  What made an otherwise forgettable game in Sanford Stadium memorable, at least for one family in the Classic City, was the return of native Athenian, David Allen. 

Recognized as a Class AAA All-State back in 1968, David Allen had starred at Athens High School under the guidance of Coach Weyman Sellers - a co-captain of Georgia's 1948 SEC championship team.

Allen would attend Tennessee, and although never an All-American, all-conference, or a record breaker, "the Hammer," as he was nicknamed, was a mainstay on some outstanding Volunteer defenses.

From 1970-1972, Allen started all three seasons at cornerback for Tennessee and, for all three seasons, the Vols finished with a 10-2 record or better, won their bowl game, and finished in the AP Poll's top 10.

While at Tennessee, Allen faced his hometown university just once, coming in the posted video above.  Ironically, in the process, he was also pitted against his friend and old high school teammate - Georgia quarterback Andy Johnson - who, the year following Allen, had also been recognized as an All-State player from Athens High.  

The older friend helped make life miserable for the younger one as Allen and his Tennessee teammates held Johnson and backup quarterback James Ray to a combined 8 of 23 passing for just 79 yards and two interceptions.  Albeit brief, Allen's homecoming had been a successful one. 

After another hiatus from Athens, the Hammer would come home once again, where he has remained.  Those of you that live in the area may know of him today - Dr. David Allen of Athens - who once frustrated the Bulldogs and their fans almost 40 years ago, but has since treated many of them for the better.

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