rent like champion

August 30, 2013

The Classic City-Clemson Connection


Beginning with QB Homer Jordan in 1979 (vs. Georgia in 1981), at times as many
as four Athens natives appeared on Clemson's roster annually through 1990.
Earlier this week, I discussed with a friend, who like me is a native of Athens in his late-30s, our upcoming treks to Clemson for Saturday's game.  During the conversation, he asked, "You remember, when we were kids, when it seemed like half of Clemson's roster was from Athens?"
 
I certainly did remember back in the 1980s during the heyday of the bitter Georgia-Clemson rivalry, when a number of high school prospects from either Cedar Shoals or Clarke Central would leave Athens and make the hour and a half journey to Tigertown to play football.  The names rolled off my tongue: Homer Jordan, Norman Haynes, Chris Morocco...  Well, I could only recall three Athenians-turned-Tigers off the top of my head, but I was sure there had been many more.
 
I examined 70 seasons of Clemson football rosters dating back to the mid-1940s and discovered that until Danny Ford became the Tigers' head coach in the late-70s, just two Athenians appeared on a Clemson roster, or the same number of players hailing from the town of Clemson that would play for Georgia during the same period.  However, while Ford was at the helm from 1979 to 1989 and beginning with Cedar Shoals' Jordan, Clemson had at least one Athens native on its roster every year, and some times as many as four. 
 
"I picked Clemson over Georgia, Tennessee, and a few other schools because of several reasons," Jordan informed me during an interview this week.  "For one, if I was to play under Coach Ford, I knew for a fact I would get a chance to play at quarterback." 
 
One could understand Jordan's reservation towards signing with other schools.  From 1975 through 1982, five different Cedar Shoals quarterbacks received All-State recognition, but all of them, except one, would begin their college varsity careers at a position other than under center.  The one exception also added that it simply "felt good" deciding to play for Ford and Clemson.  
 
Along with Jordan, the other Athenians who must have also "felt good" to leave for oranger pastures:
 
Homer Jordan, QB (Cedar Shoals): signed 1979; lettered 1980-1982; All-ACC in 1981 and quarterbacked Tigers to national championship
 
Tyrone Davis, CB (Cedar Shoals): signed 1980; lettered 1982-1984; 3rd-round pick of N.Y. Giants in '85 Draft
 
Norman Haynes, DB-LB (Cedar Shoals): signed 1984; lettered 1985-1987; led Tigers in tackles as a sophomore in 1986
 
Chris Morocco, QB (Clarke Central): signed 1985; lettered 1986-1989; named offensive MVP of 10-win Tigers team in 1989 
 
Bruce Taylor, QB-DB-WR (Cedar Shoals): signed 1986; lettered 1990; caught one pass during Tiger career 
 
Doug Brewster, LB (Clarke Central): signed 1987; lettered 1987-1990; earned All-ACC honors as both a junior and senior
 
Was signing six players over nine years from two large high schools in a city just 70 miles away from Clemson actually that big of a deal, or that big of a steal for Clemson from our Classic City?  Perhaps it wasn't the number of Athens boys to sign with the hated rival, but the impact the Athenians made collectively as Tigers, and against our Bulldogs, that made it seem "like half of Clemson's roster was from Athens" during the Ford era.
 
For some Georgia fans who can remember back then, we're quick to point out Homer's homecomings in 1980 and 1982, when the native Athenian threw a combined five interceptions (no touchdown passes) in two Bulldog victories.  However, few regular-season setbacks have been as hard to endure as the game in the middle – the Jordan-led 13-3 upset in 1981 at Clemson only to later witness the same quarterback guide the Tigers to a national title.
 
Athens' Norman Haynes (bottom left)
confronts UGA's James Jackson
After tallying just six tackles as a redshirt linebacker in 1985, Norman Haynes had his collegiate "coming out" in his return to Athens, recording a game-high 14 tackles in a 31-28 upset over the Bulldogs in 1986.  By the next season, according to Clemson's sports information department, Haynes was "another in a list of fine all-around athletes to come to Clemson from Athens, GA."  Then, there was Chris Morocco, son of Georgia legend Zippy Morocco, who had grown up close with the family of Coach Dooley.  Originally, Morocco actually wanted to stay in Athens, according to his father in an interview I conducted fairly recently. 
 
"In 1985, Georgia already had a bunch of quarterbacks, and only had one scholarship to give at the position," Zippy said.  "They decided to give it to a kid from Cairo (Joey Hester) because he could also punt (Hester was a Parade All-American punter), so Chris went to Clemson."  Four years later, Hester finished his Bulldog career with a punting average of less than 39 yards and having never thrown a single pass, whereas Morocco was named the South Carolina Player-of-the-Year for his performance during the '89 season.
 
An Athens high schooler signed with the Tigers in both 1986 and 1987, resulting in four Athenians on each of Clemson's 1987 and 1988 rosters.  In comparison, of Georgia's 128 total players (roster spots + signees + walk-ons) in 1988, remarkably, the exact same number as Clemson four –  hailed from Athens.  Also, since Ford's departure from the Tigers nearly a quarter-century ago, just one Athenian has appeared on a Clemson roster, and he – punter Wynn Kopp – was a transfer from UGA, not a Tiger signee.
 
"Clemson got a good number of guys from Athens during the 1980s because Coach Ford heavily recruited both the states of Georgia and North Carolina," said William DeVane, a teammate of Jordan's at Clemson and the Tigers' starting defensive guard on the 1981 championship squad.  "That wasn't necessarily the case at Clemson before Ford became head coach."  
 
DeVane's Athens-Clemson "connection" is a little different, and somewhat in reverse, than the aforementioned players: two decades after playing for the Tigers, he was the head football coach at Clarke Central from 2002 through 2005.  "Some of my assistant coaches at Clarke Central were always trying to get me to go to a Georgia game at Sanford Stadium.  I finally went, but as a big Clemson fan, I didn't really like it.  I was like, man, get me out of here!"  Although no longer an Athens resident, DeVane has remained in the state but closer to Clemson as the current head football coach at Hart County High School.
 
While attending Clemson, Jordan often returned to his hometown (do you blame him?).  John Lastinger, Georgia's starting quarterback in 1982-1983, once jokingly told me that he saw Jordan so much in McWhorter Hall (UGA's athletic dorm), "it was like Homer was part of our team."
 
"I came home to Athens quite a bit," said Jordan.  "A couple of my best friends were [Cedar Shoals teammate and UGA wide receiver] Amp Arnold he's now my brother-in-law – and [Cedar Shoals teammate and UGA defensive lineman] Jimmy Payne."
 
After four seasons in the CFL during the mid-1980s, Jordan came home to Athens where he has remained ever since.  Today, he will temporarily leave town and return to Clemson to serve as one of the Tigers' honorary captains for tomorrow's game.  But, first he will make a stop in Hartwell for tonight's high school contest between DeVane's Hart County team and Cedar Shoals.

Speaking of the Hart County-Cedar Shoals game, DeVane asked me, "Do you know what quarterback we will be facing Friday night – the quarterback for Cedar Shoals?"  I admittedly did not.  "Darius Jordan – Homer's son.  Now, isn't that crazy?" the coach blurted with a laugh.

In turn, I asked Homer about his son facing the team coached by his old Clemson teammate, before the Jordan family drove another 35 miles the next day to watch the Georgia-Clemson game.  "I'm proud of Darius," he simply said.  "This will be his third season as Cedar Shoals' starting quarterback."

What about him playing at the next level?  Is it possible the son of Homer Jordan, just like his father had done 35 years before, would leave the Classic City to attend Clemson? 

"Darius isn't going to reestablish the trend of Athens players leaving for Tigertown, now, is he?"  I jokingly asked.  Homer first just laughed, and then would only say, "He's gotten letters from a few interested schools..." 
 

August 27, 2013

Top Dawg Dynasties

Psst, hey Aaron, where do you think my
last six teams rank all time at UGA?
I recently received an email from a reader, asking my opinion of where Georgia's "run" starting in 2007 to the present ranked amongst the greatest eras in UGA football history ("Would the 2007 to 2012 seasons even rank in Georgia's top 10 eras?" the emailer asked).  That inquiry, plus an article I recalled from Athlon Sports back in June of college football's top 25 dynasties of the AP era prompted me to rank the ten greatest Georgia football eras of all time.
 
As apparently Athlon determined, I too decided a "dynasty," or an era, needed to consist of at least four seasons.  I also agree with Athlon that "dynasty is a word that gets tossed around all too liberally" on the whole; however, at Georgia, perhaps not so much, or at least it shouldn't be.  You see, the Bulldogs might be the ultimate example in college football of a steady, quality program over nearly all of its many years, where you won't find persistent losing, but good luck discovering a period besides the obvious from 1980 to 1983 when Georgia was consistently and completely dominant.
 
Still, I made an effort to rank Georgia football's greatest eras.  Now, how many of them are actually "dynasty" worthy is up for debate...  
 
1.  1980-83: 43-4-1
The crème de la crème of eras in UGA football history.  Herschel Walker leads three consecutive teams to SEC titles and a shot for the national championship entering each year's Sugar Bowl.  Without Herschel in '83, a bunch of seniors mostly overshadowed during their careers continue where 1982 left off, losing just one game and upsetting 2nd-ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl.  Georgia's string of #1, #6, #4, and #4 finishes in the AP Poll is matched by few programs in history, while the four losses during the dynasty were to teams that would eventually finish #1, #4, #1, and #3 in their respective final AP Poll.

2.  1941-48: 69-17-2
A consensus national championship (1942) and another season when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 by an NCAA-recognized poll (1946), winning three SEC titles in a seven-year span after capturing just two conference championships during the first 50 seasons of the program, and six bowl games in eight years—the most in college football during the same period—highlight the era.  In the two seasons Georgia didn't go bowling—1943 and 1944—the team was totally depleted by the WWII draft and nearly quit playing for 1-2 seasons (like most of the rest of the SEC), but instead fielded teams primarily comprised of 17 year olds, and still somehow managed to win 13 of 20 games.  Georgia's .795 winning percentage during the era is better than three of Athlon's "dynasties" (Ohio State 1954-70, Clemson 1981-91, and Virginia Tech 1999-2011).

3.  2002-05: 44-9
After one year at the helm, Coach Richt guides the Bulldogs to their first SEC championship in 20 years and a school-record 13 victories.  Three years later, Georgia had won a second conference title in four years while finishing ranked in the AP's top ten four consecutive seasons for only the second time in school history (1980-1983 the other).  Following each of the four seasons, a combined seven different Bulldogs are recognized as first-team All-Americans, while five players would be NFL first-round selections.  The 2005 senior class, which consisted of 11 players lettering in each of the four seasons, including standouts Greg Blue, D.J. Shockley, DeMario Minter, Tim Jennings, and Max Jean-Gilles, remains the winningest class in UGA football history.

4.  1910-13: 25-6-3
This was the era that put Georgia football on the map, so to speak.  As I've mentioned here before, including last May when I argued the program should retire Bob McWhorter's jersey, to fully understand how football at Georgia drastically changed in 1910, you first have to be somewhat aware of the state of UGA football prior to 1910.  From 1899 through 1909, the Red and Black won only about one-third of their games, averaging just 7.2 points per contest.  With head coach Alex Cunningham and All-American halfback McWhorter in Athens from 1910 to 1913, Georgia was considered one of the best teams in the South, never suffering more than two setbacks annually, while averaging 24.2 points per game.

5.  1964-68: 38-13-3
Similarly to the 1910-1913 era, I believe what makes the initial years of the Vince Dooley regime so remarkable was the state the UGA football program was in when the young head coach arrived in Athens.  For the previous 15 campaigns entering 1964, the Bulldogs had only achieved five winning seasons, made two bowl appearances, and captured just one SEC title, while defeating only two teams in their previous 29 games against AP-ranked opposition.

Georgia opened Dooley's first year with a loss to No. 6 Alabama and the Bulldogs fell to No. 10 Florida State a month later to drop its record to 2-2-1.  However, as he recalled for my latest book, it was at the end of the 17-14 narrow loss to the Seminoles that quarterback Kirby Moore, reacting to the Sanford Stadium's crowd cheering a losing but admirable effort, turned to another redshirt player in the stands and said, "It's turned—the Georgia football program has turned around today.  The Bulldogs are no longer a team not to be thought of."  It did turn.  Georgia won nine of its next 10 games into the '65 season, captured SEC championships in 1966 and 1968, and did not lose a single game in 10 tries against AP-ranked opponents through the '68 regular season.

ERAS 6 through 10:
6.  1920-27: 50-22-4; 7.  1975-78: 33-13-1; 8. 2007-12: 57-23; 9.  1997-00: 35-13; 10. 1930-34: 32-14-3

Therefore, in answering the emailer, yes, in my opinion, Georgia's last six seasons entering the upcoming campaign do rank as one of the top 10 "eras" in Bulldog football history.  Granted, there have been no championships and there was the stinker of a season in 2010, but Georgia almost played for a national title last year and perhaps should have in the era's first season.  More so, a banner year in 2013 would propel the current era into the school's top five, although we should continue refraining from tossing around the word "dynasty."

August 15, 2013

DOOLEY vs. RICHT: Tough One to Call

It's now a two-horse race, statistically, as far as who is the top
head coach in UGA football history, but who's in the lead?
Who is the top head coach ["numbers" wise] in the history of UGA football?
 
Entering the 2013 season, the question is certainly a valid one where "Coach Dooley" is no longer  the no-brainer answer.  With Coach Richt essentially reaching the halfway point of the former Bulldog coach's quarter-century regime, I now consider the two coaching greats' careers measureable with the other, and what better way to compare the two than with the customary measurements? 
  • Overall Winning %: advantage RICHT (.747 to .715)
To begin the comparison, I first recalled, and then conducted an extensive search to find, a now-inoperative UGA blog declaring "the one comparison [between Dooley and Richt] that matters the most" is winning percentage, where the current head coach holds a decided advantage.  Sure, that could be true, but only if the two men coached against very similar levels of competition.
 
You know how Georgia faces two or three Georgia Southerns, Tennessee Techs, or Buffalos every year?  Back in Dooley's day, cupcakes on the schedule weren't quite as common as today.  Therefore, if you omit Dooley's 12 games against now-FCS or lower-tier FBS competition (roughly, an average of one cupcake every two seasons) and Richt's 22 (nearly TWO cupcakes every one season), the overall winning percentages of the coaches are nearly identical (Dooley .703, Richt .706).   
  • SEC Winning %: advantage DOOLEY (.717 to .705)              
I give the argument "the SEC is just a tougher conference now than it once was" a little meritand I mean a littleThrow in the fact the SEC has more members now than before, and teams face more conference games annually, and Richt's .705 SEC mark is perhaps as notable, if not more so, as Dooley's .717.
  • Bowl Record: advantage RICHT (8-4 to 8-10-2)
That's rightRicht has won as many bowl games in 12 postseason appearances as Dooley did in 20.  However, simply put, no current coach's bowl record should be compared to one from 25-plus years ago.  As T. Kyle King stated a while back, "Dooley was 8-10-2 in bowl games, but half of his postseason losses were in Cotton or Sugar Bowls," and "I would rather see my team lose a Sugar Bowl than win a Peach Bowl."  Also, Richt was supposed to have won all of his bowl games thus far, or almost all of them.  Georgia has been favored in 11 of Richt's 12 bowls  with the one exception being the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl when the Bulldogs were three-point underdogs to Virginia Tech.  Dooley, on the other hand, was favored in just nine of 20 postseason games. 
  • Versus ranked opponents: advantage RICHT (.533 to .507)
Richt has won more than 53 percent of his games against teams nationally ranked in the AP Poll due in large part to a 24-13 record under the circumstances his first seven seasons.  However, the coach's respectable versus-ranked-teams mark has benefitted from 15 games, winning 11, against 21st through 25th-ranked opposition.  Remember, in Dooley's day there was only a top 20, so the Dogs could never be pitted against a No. 21st, 22nd, etc.  Remove the 21st through 25th-ranked opponents and Richt's top-20 winning percentage is below Dooley's at .467.
  • Championships: advantage DOOLEY (an SEC title every 4.2 seasons and a national championship compared to Richt's every 6 seasons and no national title), but if not for Herschel... 
Honestly, I've always found it a tad absurd when someone dilutes Dooley's career success by stating something on the order of "but if Herschel hadn't played for him..."  Should the career of Ohio State's Woody Hayes or Auburn's Pat Dye not be as highly thought of simply because legends Archie Griffin and Bo Jackson, respectively, played for each coach?  Therefore, we might as well add in, for example, if not for Charley Trippi, the Wally Butts era... .  I personally say, if "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts... 
 
This I do know: since Richt has been at Georgia, the Bulldogs have essentially landed a top-10 recruiting class annually.  The same could not be said when Dooley was head coach.  Dooley might have signed the program's greatest player ever; however, Richt has signed better classes of players than any previous coach in the program's history.  And, by the way, even if you neglect to recognize the Herschel years, Dooley captured three SEC titles in a span of 11 seasons (1966-1976), whereas Richt could only say as much in the near future if he wins the conference championship pronto, like in 2013. 
  •  Comeback wins/Lost leads difference: advantage DOOLEY (+10 to -1)
Measuring the number of games won when trailing by 10+ points in the second half (comeback win) and games lost when leading by 10+ points following halftime (lost lead), this unique, but telling coaching statistic is one I first figured following Richt's fifth lost lead of his career (2012 Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State).  Add another from a season ago—Alabama in the SEC title game—and Richt's comebacks-lost leads mark currently stands at a lowly 5 and 6.  Dooley's, on the other hand, was a far-superior 13 and 3.
  • Final national ranking: advantage RICHT (No. 16.9 to No. 18.8) 
Before this post is mistaken as an anti-Richt/pro-Dooley analysis, we've come to arguably, as it has been said, "the one comparison that matters the most"—on average, where one ended up in the national rankings.  Since not all Dooley and Richt teams finished ranked nationally in the two major polls, I used the respected Billingsley Rankings—a computer formula figured into the BCS Rankings, slotting all FBS teams, which is normally more or less rather similar to the major rankings decided upon by the pollsters.

In 25 seasons, Dooley's teams averaged roughly a No. 19 national ranking, whereas Richt's first 12 squads were two slots better at approximately No. 17.  And, there are a couple dozen more teams competing in FBS football nowadays than Division I-A in Dooley's time, thus there are more squads currently vying for those national rankings than before.  If I throw out Richt's best and worst national rankings, and Dooley's two best and two worst (since he had twice the tenure), the current head coach's average national ranking is better than 3½ spots higher than the hall of famer's (13.7 to 17.3).

In conclusion, they say the numbers don't lie...  Well, when compared to the same measurement but of a different era, perhaps some of the customary figures can be exaggerated a bit.  Regardless, when comparing Georgia's best head coach with the Bulldogs' second-best in regards to the "numbers," it's difficult for me at this point to tell who is, well, the program's best and second-best.  For me, only time will tell but quite possibly as soon as the looming season, when a stellar year for Georgia in 2013 could very well push Richt forward as distinctly the lead, top Dawg.

August 9, 2013

Just Another Opposing Player

The '50 Dogs made history with an infamous tie,
of all results, against a lowly western program
one year away from being defunct.
"Now, you're going way back to the Neanderthal days," Marion Campbell, the "Swamp Fox," declared from his home in St. Augustine, Florida, when I recently asked him what he recalled from the 1950 Georgia-St. Mary's football game. "All I really remember is that we were supposed to beat them badreal badbut the game ended in a tie."

I had to remind the former standout Bulldog and NFL player, and college and pro coach, the real significance of Georgia's second game that season, and it had little to do with the Bulldogs' 7-7 upset draw against the host Gaels.

"'Pop' Warner was in attendance," recalled Zippy Morocco, Georgia's star halfback in 1950, when I asked him the same question. Apparently, the then-living coaching legend was part of a small crowd of only 5,000-7,000 spectators to show up on a Friday night at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium. But, was there anything else?

"What about John Henry Johnson of St. Mary's?" I asked Zippy. "Oh, yeah! He was unbelievable!" he said. "Johnson knocked the hell out of about four of our players, and each of them really didn't want to go back in the game after that!"

I then added the significance of the game: With his appearance against the Bulldogs, St. Mary's star sophomore fullback, Johnson, became the first African-American athlete to compete against a college football team from the state of Georgia and against a UGA athletic team in any sport.

By the end of the 1940s, many major college football programs outside the South featured black players. On the contrary, most southern teams wouldn't even face other squads that carried African-American players. However, by the start of the 1950s, southern teams, like Georgia, had little choice but to play outside the region in order to maintain a national profile, meaning the possibility of facing a black player, which meant modifying its Jim Crow policies of opposing integrated games.

Southern teams soon began facing intersectional competition, including African-American players, on the road. However, the southern programs wouldn't dare invite the intersectional, integrated opponent to their site the following season for a meeting in Dixie. Case in point, Georgia Tech traveled and faced Notre Dame and its first black player, Wayne Edmonds, in South Bend in 1953. However, there would be no trip to Atlanta for the Fighting Irish and Edmonds the following year in 1954.

Nevertheless, during the summer of 1949, Georgia announced it would travel to California to play little St. Mary's College in the fall of 1950, and then the Gaels would actually travel south to play in Athens the following season.

Leading up to the teams' initial meeting, one would think all the focus would be on Johnson, or more so his skin color, and the fact the southern Georgia boys would be opposing him. Instead, all the talk centered around how the Bulldogs would easily win out West in a walk. 

"From all we could tell before the game, we were about to play a high school team," Morocco said. Years after the game, according to an opposing Gaels player, "We had a scouting report on [Georgia] and there wasn't a player anywhere with a weakness."

Georgia had upset 15th-ranked Maryland the week before in its opener, while St. Mary's had been routed 40-0 by the College of the Pacific. The Bulldogs outweighed the Gaels by an average of 25 pounds per starter. Georgia entered the contest favored by anywhere from 28 to 31 points on the road. The game was thought to be such a snoozer that it wasn't broadcasted locally on Georgia radio because of the late 11:30 EST kickoff, but scheduled to be rebroadcasted the next day.

Still, in what was envisioned to be a very one-sided affair, The Red and Black's Jim Minter, who would soon embark on a long, successful career with both of Atlanta's two major newspapers, somewhat forewarned the traveling Bulldogs: "But they must stop a dangerous, powerful runner in John Henry Johnson, Negro fullback."

In the first half of the game, Georgia twice reached inside St. Mary's 5-yard line but came away with no points. The contest was shockingly scoreless at halftime, but that would soon change to begin the third quarter as the Bulldogs indeed couldn't stop the dangerous, powerful Johnson. 

Grabbing the second-half kickoff at his own 9-yard line after it had literally bounced off a teammate, the 6-1, 191-pound Johnson first headed towards the sideline, and then streaked untouched for a 91-yard score. The scoring return was just the second of what would be only nine touchdowns scored against the Bulldogs in 11 regular-season games. More detrimental to Georgia, after the successful PAT, St. Mary's had a 7-0 lead.   

Soon after Johnson's spectacular return, he assisted the Bulldogs in scoring a touchdown of their own, fumbling inside his own 5-yard line. Two plays later, Georgia quarterback Mal Cook scored on a 1-yard sneak. Bob Walston's PAT knotted the score at 7-7. Later in the third stanza with the Gaels positioned near the Bulldogs' goal line, Johnson leaped for an apparent touchdown; however, before crossing the goal, Johnson fumbled into the end zone where Claude Hipps gathered his third forced turnover of the game (two fumble recoveries, one interception).

Late in the contest, the Bulldogs were threatening to score following a 39-yard pass completion from Cook to Morocco. However, Georgia's bid for victory was thwarted by Johnson, who broke up a potential scoring pass, securing the surprising tie for St. Mary's.

The Gaels might have been outgained nearly 2-to-1 (147 total yards to Georgia's 292), outclassed, and outmanned, but because of Johnson's kickoff return, his stellar defensive performance, and despite his two costly fumbles, St. Mary's, in a way, prevailed. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, would soon board a plane bound for home after a result described as putting "Southern football back fifty years," while the Georgia faithful listened back home to their radios of a "rebroadcast of the slaughter."

Ten years ago, the Oakland Tribune ran a story on the same notable game where a former Gael curiously indicated that race had been an issue during the skirmishes on the field. It was "the Civil War all over again," the player recalled. "In that game, we heard a lot (said) against John Henry."

"I remember reading or hearing [that Georgia players made racist remarks]," Morocco said. "But, honestly, I don't remember anything like that going on."

"There wasn't anything to [the racial aspect]," Campbell stressed. "To us, Johnson was just another opposing player."

A report from the game collaborates with the Bulldog players' account, indicating both Johnson and his opposition assisted the other by helping one another up following plays, plus "the Georgia squad agreed [Johnson] was a gentleman when the play was done."

The Bulldogs would end their season losing just two regular-season games and made their seventh bowl appearance in 10 years. St. Mary's would win just two games the entire season, resulting against opposition who finished with a combined 2-18 record. Soon after the season concluded, the college disbanded its football program in early January of 1951. However, prior to doing so, according to a fairly recent article from St. Mary's College, evidently "Georgia officials would back out of the second year (1951) of the [UGA-St. Mary's] deal because they weren't ready for a black to take the field in Dixie."

Following St. Mary's tie with Georgia, John Henry 
Johnson is carried off the field by adoring fans, who 
then waited outside the locker room for another 30 
minutes to catch a glimpse of him.
I did not discover any evidence of Georgia backing out of the deal because "they weren't ready for a black" to play in Athens, and find it unusual that the cancellation would have occurred likely while the 1950 season was still in progress. Maybe this portion of the account is an exaggerated snippet to add to an already memorable story, like another report which stated Georgia was favored over St. Mary's by "anywhere from 6 to 10 touchdowns" (when in reality it was more like four touchdowns). Perhaps UGA officials weren't "ready for a black to take the field in Dixie" in 1951 simply because St. Mary's no longer had a football program.

As did several other of his SMC teammates, John Henry Johnson transferred to Arizona State after football was disbanded at the college. He was all-conference in 1951 and selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 18th overall pick of the 1952 NFL Draft. Notably, in San Francisco, Johnson was a teammate of Georgia's Campbell for two seasons. Upon his retirement from the league in 1966, Johnson's 6,803 career rushing yards was the fourth-most in NFL history. The four-time Pro Bowler would eventually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. After suffering from Alzheimer's for more than 20 years, Johnson passed away in 2011 at the age of 81.

Finally, although Georgia wouldn't feature a black varsity football player of its own until 22 years following the St. Mary's game, remarkably, less than a decade after the program was integrated, 43 percent of the Bulldogs' national title team of 1980 was African American. Currently, that percentage has risen to more than 75 percent.  But, perhaps it was a whopping 63 years ago—back in the Neanderthal days—when the seed was planted in the form of John Henry Johnson—just another opposing player—and the integration of the UGA football program was first rooted.

August 6, 2013

We Talkin' 'Bout Practice

Sketched during 1896 fall camp, trainer
"Pop" Warner (L) stands with one of his
star Red and Black players.
As we are all fully aware, football practice at UGA has recently resumed.  Personally, with the start of the last few fall camps, I'm reminded of one of the program's first and has to be most intriguing practice sessions entering a campaign since I discovered its details in research conducted several years ago.

By 1896, although the sport of football was relatively new at the University, it had already taken the town of Athens by storm.  After just one season at the helm, 25-year-old Glenn "Pop" Warner, Georgia's "trainer" as the head coach was known back then, had nurtured a program which, as it was stated, made "Athenians have the football craze."

It was said about 2,000 residents arrived daily to observe the Red and Black's first week of fall practice.  This is absolutely remarkable considering roughly the same number would show up for most of the team's games during that upcoming season. 

Imagine if 90,000+ people showed up nowadays to the Bulldogs' practice field every August.

Back then, a UGA football practice was evidently a family affair.  During one of the early 1896 practices, a newspaper writer overheard a young man ask his father, "Did you ever see better grit than [halfback Laurie] Cothran showed today?"

"He's one of the finest but did you notice [quarterback John] Spain's fearless tackling?" the father replied.  "That fellow would tackle a buzz-saw."

"None of them are as good as [halfback Rufus "Cow"] Nalley," chimed in the mother.

"Oh, shucks, mamma," declared the youngest child, a seven year old.  "Old Cow can eat 'em up when he gets his hands on 'em but you know he ain't half as fast as [halfback Arthur] Clark.  Clark's the swiftest."

A lot was expected from the talent-filled Georgia squad of 1896 despite, according to a preseason forecast, "most of [the players] were light men, not averaging more than 130 pounds." 

One hundred seventeen years later, Georgia's fall practice has certainly undergone some major transformations.  With no such evidence of a cow, buzz-saw, or a debating family of four, an image of one of the Bulldogs' recent practices sent by a photographer friend of mine: 


Posted by the sponsor of this blog to the site's right panel, apparently making it to the practice field recently was also a pouch of SF-7x Super FruitSpeaking of my sponsor, I've been meaning to post information on the 100% fruit, 100% natural fruit chews for some time. 

SF-7x Super Fruit is operated locally out of Athens and currently supplies its fruit chews to more than a dozen college athletic programs around the nation.  Each pouch is equivalent to two servings of fruit, USDA and NCAA compliant, a fruit source free of preservatives, added sugars, waxes and glazing agents, and  comes in three flavors--Strawberry, Raspberry, and Watermelon.

And, unlike similar products, SF-7x Super Fruit actually tastes good.  My family can attest to this: my 6-year-old is perhaps the pickiest eater on earth; however, when it comes to SF-7x Super Fruit, my wife and I literally have to hide the family pouches from him.

If you're interested in finding out more information on SF-7x Super Fruit, visit their website.  From there, you can order their products.  When ordering, make sure to enter SFATD as your promo code (ATD for "About Them Dawgs!") to receive a 10% discount off your order.

For a few of you, SF-7x Super Fruit is giving away pouches of its fruit chews.  Be one of the first three to answer the trivia question correctly below, and the company will promptly mail you a box of 15 pouches--five of each flavor.  
 

Speaking of 1896, Georgia would finish a perfect 4-0 that year, marking the first of how many seasons in UGA football history through 2012 where Georgia has gone perfect, not losing or tying a single game for an entire campaign?

A. One (1896 has been the only perfect season)
B. Three
C. Five
D. Seven
E. Nine  
 
Email your answer to Samples@patrickgarbin.com for the opportunity to receive complimentary SF-7x Super Fruit.  Please send only one answer per email address.

That was quick--had five readers promptly email and answer the trivia question correctly.  Congratulations to W. Easom, J. Blackston, R. Rivera, J. Pratt, and R. Tankersley.

Summing up Georgia's fall camp of 1896, it was reported "Athens has the football fever," and "the outlook for the Athens men is exceedingly bright" ("in spite of the lightness of the candidates").  Perhaps Athens and its "men" have actually transformed little 117 years later; the exact same things could be said of the city and its Bulldogs during the current fall practice (except the "lightness" part as the Athens men now average approximately 230 pounds per player).