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June 13, 2013

"Terrible Terry" Was First Class

R.I.P., Joe T
I'm currently with my family on vacation, where I had sworn off posting for a week or so unless I really felt compelled to do so.  Needless to say, I instantly felt obligated to do so after hearing of the recent passing of 89-year-old Joe Tereshinski -- an All-SEC end at Georgia during the 1940s.
 
Most Bulldog followers of today are familiar with Tereshinski as the first of three generations of Georgia football players; sons Joe Jr. and Wally played during the mid-1970s, and grandson, Joe Tereshinski III, played during the mid-2000s.  Notably, each of the four Tereshinskis were members of at least one SEC championship team.  
 
Like many of Coach Wally Butts' early recruits, Tereshinski hailed from up North.  Upon his arrival to UGA in 1941, the Glen Lyon, Pennsylvania native was greeted by the southern football program with, of all things, a name change.  According to a recent article, historian Dan Magill says Tereshinski's name was changed to "Joe Terry" in game programs and nearly in university records because Butts curiously "received grief about recruiting players with long last names instead of boys from Georgia."  Nevertheless, by midseason of his sophomore campaign of 1942, Joe was back to rightfully being acknowledged as Tereshinski, although his temporary last name left a nickname lasting throughout his Bulldog playing days.
 
Deemed "Terrible Terry" because of the smashing end's outstanding blocking and tackling skills, Tereshinski was a top substitute in 1942 and upon his return from military service in 1945.  However, soon after the start of his junior year, Tereshinski became a full-time starter at right end, where he remained through Georgia's 1946 championship season.  All-Americans John Rauch, Herb St. John, Dan Edwards, and most prominently, Charley Trippi, might be the names mostly associated with Georgia's undefeated campaign of 1946.  However, if it wasn't for "Terrible Terry," the Bulldogs' perfect season might have ceased in just the third game of the year.
 
In an era when it wasn't unusual for Georgia to host early-season opponents on a Friday night, the Bulldogs welcomed 19th-ranked and undefeated Kentucky and its 32-year-old head coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant, to Sanford Stadium for a weekday night affair in mid-October.  The Wildcats, who were considered only slight underdogs, scored a touchdown on the game's opening drive and then promptly blocked a Trippi punt.  Possessing the ball 1st and 10 on Georgia's 22-yard line, Kentucky looked to take an early two-touchdown lead before encountering arguably the greatest defensive series by an individual player in UGA football history.
 
Action from the '46 Kentucky game, where "Terrible Terry"
and his teammates broke the hearts of the 'Cats and their "Bear." 
 
The Wildcats ran four plays, and on every one, Tereshinski made a "smashing" tackle at the line of scrimmage, netting a combined loss of two yards.  A few plays later, Tereshinski came through on the offensive end, catching a pass from Rauch for a gain of more than 20 yards inside the Kentucky 10-yard line.  Soon afterwards, Georgia tied the game, 7-7.  Resulting just mere minutes into the contest, Tereshinski's four consecutive defensive stops were considered what likely "turned the ballgame around" of an eventual 28-13 Georgia victory, keeping the Bulldogs' winning streak intact at eight games of what would eventually extend to 17 consecutive victories. 

The day after what was called "the best game of his career," Tereshinski made "it a full weekend," reported The Red and Black, by marrying college sweetheart and cheerleader Martha Walraven.  Following the season, he would begin an eight-year NFL career, playing offensive end, defensive end, and linebacker for the Washington Redskins.  Notably, of the first 45 Bulldogs, including Tereshinski, to play in the NFL from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, only one -- Hall-of-Famer Charley Trippi -- played in the league (9 seasons) longer than "Terrible Terry."

I just got off the phone with a former Bulldog player, who informed me that the terror on the field was all heart and as first class as they come off the field.  This player, who played for Georgia in the mid-1970s with Joe Jr. and Wally, was chosen in the NFL Draft following his senior year, but would be cut by the team that selected him.  A year later, believing his chances for a professional football career had already been dashed, the player received a phone call that the Redskins wanted to give him a tryout.

"'Mr. T' (Tereshinski) set up a meeting where I met Washington's GM, Bobby Bethard," the player says.  "Bethard said I would have to time 4.5 in the 40 to get signed.  I ran only a 4.65, which wasn't good enough to get invited to camp." 

A month later, this same player unexpectedly received another phone call from the Redskins, inviting him back for a second tryout.  "Mr. T was the ONLY reason the Redskins gave me a second chance to get timed," he says.  "Mr. T stuck his neck out and put in a good word for me.  He obviously had some clout with Bethard, and I will always appreciate him for trying to help me out."

The former Bulldog concludes, "Mr. T was a first class gentleman, while his two sons, Joe and Wally, are a testimony to the type of man he was for they both have always been first-class people, as well."

Perhaps more so than his play on the field while at Georgia and for the Redskins, Tereshinski will be remembered for being a first-class individual, continuing to give his loyalty and heart to a program and its players long after his playing days had finished.   

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Patrick-->great tribute to a damn good dawg and person! thank you.

Anonymous said...

I knew him well, visited his home often in Maryland. He was absolutely a first class man. Great family.