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May 9, 2012

UGA's Lone "Lowsman"

Donald Chumley, an eventual Mr. Irrelevant,
pressures the quarterback in the 1984 season
opener vs. So. Miss.
After hearing this story last week of what is apparently in store for the final pick of the recent NFL Draft, I recalled the so-called celebration that was held for the Bulldogs' lone "Mr. Irrelevant" more than a quarter-century ago.

After being recognized as a AAAA honorable mention All-State lineman at Groves High School in 1980, Donald Chumley became Georgia's 17th signee of its 19-player '81 freshman class.  Following a stint on the Bullpups' JV squad, Chumley began his sophomore campaign as an offensive lineman.  Moving over to defense just prior to the start of the '82 varsity season, Chumley served as a valuable backup after All-American Jimmy Payne went down with an early-year injury.

Recording 75 tackles and 4 sacks, Chumley was the starting defensive tackle on one of the most favorite UGA football teams of all time -- the fourth-ranked and Cotton Bowl championship Bulldogs of 1983.  As a senior the following year, he was considered one of the squad's defensive standouts, totaling 83 tackles, 5 sacks, and a team-high 2 forced fumbles.

While at home in Savannah during the spring of his final year at UGA, Chumley received an unexpected late-night phone call around 3 o'clock one morning from the San Francisco 49ers, just a few months removed from a Super Bowl victory, notifying him that they had selected the 6-foot-4, 260-pound lineman with the team's pick in the 12th round.  

Only a few minutes later, Chumley received a second phone call from the 49ers.  This time, the team added he was also the 336th pick of the draft, or the dead last and, evidently, the least  -- the NFL's Mr. Irrelevant.

"Irrelevant Week" began in 1976, when former USC and NFL receiver Paul Salata founded the ceremony in Newport Beach, CA.  Chumley, the 10th Mr. Irrelevant, arrived at the Balboa Bay Club in June 1985 greeted by signs declaring: "The Last Shall Be First," "Chumley For President," and "Mr. Irrelevant All Night Long." 

As he placed a lei of dead corn cobs and carrots around the former Georgia player's neck, a city official announced, "Newport Beach congratulates and consoles Donald Chumley."  Chumley was also awarded the Lowsman Trophy, which mimics the Heisman Trophy, but depicts a player fumbling a football.
After Savannah Christian did not win a state playoff
game for 16 straight seasons, Chumley has led the
Raiders to a playoff victory every year since 2006.
Jokes aside, while at the celebration, Chumley said he was "just happy to be [in the NFL].  I plan on having a good time."

Chumley's time in the league would only last up until the final days of San Francisco's training camp, when he was cut by the team.  Ironically, at the Irrelevant Week celebration roughly a month beforehand, the Newport Beach chief of police had handed Chumley a stack of employment applications "for after you're done with training camp."

Nevertheless, after his short stint in the NFL, Georgia's lone recipient of the Lowsman would eventually find suitable employment, to say the least.

Having returned to his native Savannah, Chumley has transformed Savannah Christian Prep into arguably the most successful single-A high school football program in Georgia.  As head coach of the Raiders since 2005, he has guided the team to five consecutive double-digit win seasons, including a perfect 15-0 state championship campaign in 2011.

A former Bulldog once deemed as "Mr. Irrelevant" is now far from it.

2 comments:

F250 Dawg said...

Patrick,

Love to read your blog but I think you are reaching a bit much about Savannah Christian being the most successful single-A high school. Lincoln County must always be included in that discussion.

Thanks

Patrick Garbin said...

F250 Dawg,

Thanks for reading and your comment. I certainly see your point. I meant one could argue that Savannah Christian has recently been the most successful single-A program in the state. And if success is measured with wins and losses, the Raiders' had a .899 winning percentage from 2007 to 2011, which would be difficult to match (LC has a .848 during same period).
--
Patrick