rent like champion

September 21, 2012

Certain Things Discontinued, Simply Put, Should Be Reestablished

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently met with a Bulldog player from the mid-1970s.  This player is roughly a 12-hour drive away from Athens and has ventured back into the area only about five or six times since graduating in 1977.  Therefore, it was very important for him to witness something while he was visiting he had not seen in over 36 years, particularly since he had no idea when he'd return to Georgia. 
"When I come down, I must visit the grave of my old buddy, Hugh Hendrix," he told me back in July.   
So, there we were last Tuesday: the player, two of Hugh's friends from his hometown of Decatur, and me, traveling to Carrollton to visit Hugh's parents, Harvey at age 85, Carolyn at 77, and then onto his grave site located only a few miles from the family home.
Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with Hugh Hendrix, it certainly comes to no surprise; it has been about four decades since the defensive-turned-offensive lineman arrived at UGA to attend school and play football.  Regardless, let me give you a little insight into one of the most admirable individuals to ever don the red and black, while attempting to explain how he touched so many lives.
Hugh developed from a sophomore at Shamrock High, who couldn't even make the varsity team, to a first-team AA All-State lineman as a senior in 1972.  Harvey told me he wanted his son to be an accountant and to attend college at Rice or Vanderbilt, each offering a football scholarship, or one of the several Ivy League schools that came calling.  However, Hugh wanted to go to UGA to better his chances of eventually playing pro ball, plus, as Hendrix declared to his dad when deciding to be a Bulldog, he could "get a good education at Georgia just as well."
Midway through the 1975 season, Hugh stepped in for injured guard Joel "Cowboy" Parrish, who would be recognized as an All-American and the best lineman in the conference the following year, and filled in admirably as Georgia would go undefeated the rest of the regular season.  Entering his senior season of 1976, Hugh was slated to start at the Bulldogs' right guard position, replacing another All-American, Randy Johnson.
In early July of 1976, Hugh started to come down with flu-like symptoms.  Less than a week later, the kind-hearted, most likable player on the team mysteriously passed away, dying from an acute blood infection caused by leptospirosis a disease transmitted from animals to people.  Exactly how Hugh contracted leptospirosis, no one knew.  Even to this day, Carolyn has "no clue," as she stated, or was ever told how her only child got the rarely fatal disease.
After meeting with the Hendrix family, I began looking on a shelf in the family room at a football, which originally had been used in Georgia's season opener of 1976.  The ball had been dedicated in Hugh's honor and then given to the parents after a 36-24 comeback victory over California.  Suddenly, Carolyn walked in front of me carrying a plaque-like award and asked, "Do you know if the team still gives this out?  It's an award named after our Hugh."   
Although I had never seen it before, I knew immediately what I was looking at – the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award, given to the Bulldog who most "strains his potential."  Being the UGA football history nerd I am, I also knew the plaque hadn't been awarded in at least 10 to 15 years.  However, taken aback and at a loss for words, I didn't have the heart to tell the mother the total truth and instead mumbled a response of "I'm not sure..."
Have you ever got a feeling that you must take a stand for something a belief of yours that evidently few others, if any, may have felt at the time even if your stance might be a bit unconventional?
When it comes to Georgia football, I suspect it's a similar feeling T. Kyle King had when beginning his campaign several years ago of rightfully inducting Erk Russell into the College Football Hall of Fame.  It's a feeling I had when I visited Hugh Hendrix' grave in Carrollton.  I had felt somewhat cowardly for not being totally upfront with a dead boy's mother, and a little ashamed of the football program I loved for discontinuing an award which stood for so much, but through it all, I was suddenly driven to take a seemingly somewhat unconventional stance my attempt to reestablish the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award.

I've since uncovered some information: Hugh's award was handed out annually for 14 seasons, curiously stopped for two years, and then awarded for the final time in 1992.  Some of the recipients are considered amongst the greatest Bulldogs of all time: Joe Tereshinski, Jim Griffith, Tommy Thurson, Warren Gray, Donald Chumley, and Kim Stephens on three occasions.
I emailed a friend in the athletic office, who has been around the program for a long while, and asked if he knew why the award was stopped.  He responded that he wasn't quite sure but believes it was one of the many awards over the last 20 years to be discontinued and fall along the wayside.  Indeed, there were at least a half-dozen team awards handed out annually as late as the 1990s that are no longer given.  My suspicion is that if an award didn't have money and/or strong support backing it, the honor was simply dropped.  In regard to reestablishing Hugh's award, I don't have much money but I plan on doing something about the support aspect. 
I'll begin with baby steps.  I plan on writing Greg McGarity, Coach Richt, probably Coach Dooley, maybe Michael Adams if I can stand it, and perhaps I'll even send a letter to Ray Goff for the heck of it.  Ironically, after Hendrix opened holes for Goff while he quarterbacked Georgia's Veer in 1974-1975, Hugh's award was discontinued during the head coach's era.  And, by all means, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment to this post or contact me.  
In the game program of the '76 Georgia-Cal game, a guest editorial is written by then-team chaplain Rev. Claude McBride.  The editorial includes remarks McBride overheard by a senior starter following a tough preseason practice leading up to the season opener:
Man, it's hot out there.  They're really working us.  I about passed out...felt my legs going...then I thought about Hugh!  When I remembered him, I forgot about my complaint...I just grabbed my second wind...sucked it in...and kept at it. 
In a season dedicated to Hugh, the Bulldogs constantly sucked it in and kept at it.  Four of Georgia's 10 wins en route to an SEC title were second-half comeback victories, while remarkably seven of 11 regular-season opponents were held scoreless the entire second half. 
Hugh Hendrix touched many people in life, just after his passing, and continues to do so to this day, including yours truly when I visited his parents and later stood over his grave last week.  If there ever was a Bulldog player who deserved a team award in his honor for being the ultimate teammate and one who strained his potential, it is undoubtedly Hugh.  The football program honored him before; it should do so again!
In closing, go Dawgs and beat Vandy!  I'm off... I've got some letters to write.


Anonymous said...

Patrick-another example of why your blog stands out of all the other GA f-ball blogs. Bravo! My only complaint is that you don't post more. I suggest writing to JTII also. Looks like he was the 1st recipient, played with Hendrix, and is still involved in the program, so he may carry some pull.

Anonymous said...

I emailed you also, saying I'd write anyone I could think of, including the past recipients. Joe T. is a good one, Chumley is a highly-regarded HS head coach in Savannah, and Stephens is a reputable lawyer. If just one "well-known" supporter would be willing to back you, and if you got McGarritty on board, I could see the Hendrix award re-established by 2013. Good luck. Pete

Patrick Garbin said...

I appreciate your kind words and suggestions. And, I'll keep you updated as I begin my pursuit to have the award reestablished. Thank you!