|In just his first 7 games as a Bulldog, Pulpwood rushed |
for a Herschel-like 4 touchdowns of 34 yards or more.
For my next book on UGA football, I decided to take a different approach by interviewing primarily players from yesteryear who were certainly standouts, but not necessarily household names. And, although Pulpwood might be a household name with some, I discovered that he is quite different as well – "an interesting fellow," according to Coach Dooley following his star fullback's performance against Alabama in 1984. I concur.
During a week the Bulldogs face a favored Crimson Tide team at the Georgia Dome, it was rather appropriate I learned of Pulpwood's game of his life as a Bulldog: Georgia's 24-14 upset victory over Alabama from nearly 30 years ago.
Pulpwood, who had played in just one varsity game as a true freshman in 1983, surprised all, even himself, by first capturing Georgia's starting fullback position entering the '84 campaign (over David McCluskey – the team's returning leading rusher), and then breaking off a 50-yard touchdown sprint from his fullback position in the season opener against Southern Miss.
A Coffee County teammate of Pulpwood's recently said of the highly-touted tailback, who had initially signed with Texas A&M: "At Georgia, they put him at fullback weighing only 195 pounds and lightning quick. ... If he was to ever get loose, he would be gone." Never was this more evident than Pulpwood's game at Legion Field – arguably, the greatest rushing performance ever by a Bulldog in the Alabama series.
On just a simple fullback dive off the option series, Pulpwood first struck only 1:28 into the game, streaking for a 44-yard touchdown. Just 2:19 later, he was off again on the exact same play, sprinting for a 34-yard score. Pulpwood mostly served as a blocker the remainder of the game for mainly tailback and fellow freshman Lars Tate. However, he resurfaced with a critical first-down run of 17 yards on the Bulldogs' final touchdown drive, which gave Georgia a 10-point lead late in the game. Pulpwood finished with 117 yards on 12 carries, including the two distinguished scoring jaunts.
Two weeks later, Pulpwood rushed for more than 100 yards in a rout of Vanderbilt. Smith's final of two career 100-yard performances – Georgia's only two 100-yard rushing games by an individual in a 20-game span from October 1983 to October 1985 – included another long run, a 47-yard touchdown late in the opening quarter.
|During what would be his final game at UGA, |
Pulpwood (No. 35) celebrates a touchdown with
No. 32 Lars Tate in the Citrus Bowl.
Two months later, Pulpwood's tenure as a Bulldog would end with a 17-17 tie against Florida State in the Citrus Bowl. Georgia's ultimate one-hit wonder finished his sophomore season with 655 rushing yards, a 6.0 average, and four touchdowns – all team highs. His 12 receptions in 1984 led all running backs.
Soon after the Citrus Bowl, Pulpwood was declared academically ineligible. After leaving school, he would live a life of crime and drugs, culminating with getting shot in Atlanta in 1997. However, since this former life, he has been "blessed," according to Pulpwood, discovering those that truly loved him and people that "had my back." Such individuals include old teammates McCluskey and Tate, Keith Henderson and Tim Worley. Recently, after hearing of their old friend's turnaround, the four former Bulldog running backs traveled to Crossroads Baptist Church in Douglas, Ga. to demonstrate they still had Pulpwood's back in 2011 after years of searching for him.
Finally, Pulpwood wanted to call attention to another Bulldog that always stood by him – one of the most celebrated Bulldogs of all time, Coach Dooley, who was there by Pulpwood's bedside in Atlanta the moment he woke up in the hospital after getting shot.
As I wrapped up my phone interview, I decided to find out what the real Pulpwood thought about Georgia's upcoming meeting against Alabama for the SEC title and a spot in the national championship game:
"The key will be to jump on the Tide early," Pulpwood declared without any hesitation, "...just like I did to them in Birmingham back in '84," he added with a laugh.