As we're all aware, one of the leading stories for the Bulldogs this early season has been the emergence of sophomore fullback Quayvon Hicks – his powerful running, pass-catching prowess, punishing blocking and, perhaps the most distinguishable feature of the fan favorite, his predator-like facemask. Although similar varieties are worn around college football, Hicks' unusual facemask has been the only one of its kind at Georgia, ever.
A year or so ago, I compiled the UGA Football Helmet Project – an ongoing display of every kind of helmet worn by the Bulldogs, and every featured decal in their history. While undergoing this project, I came across some rather unique facemasks donned by a number of Bulldogs of old – a few you could say are as notable as Quayvon's full-cage mask. Therefore, I have assembled my top five pre-Quayvon Georgia facemasks of all time.
Whereas Hicks has indicated he believes his particular mask looks "kind of intimidating," the appearances of my top five, plus an honorable mention, seem nearly as unusual, I acknowledge, as someone actually taking the time to rank a program's all-time facemasks. Regardless, without further adieu...
#5 CRUMLEY'S EXTENDED TWO-BAR: When placekicker and Athens-native Steve Crumley came to UGA in 1985, he arrived with an uncommon kicking style, plus a facemask preference for a variation of an old stand-by. Crumley, the school's first primary placekicker to kick straight on in 13 years, elected to go with a tight two-bar mask – a common protector amongst UGA players during the 1960s and 1970s, and fitting for a kicker. However, no Bulldog had ever wore a mask quite like this as Crumley's two bars seemingly extended out five feet from his face. After 46 career field goals – the third-most in school history at the time – Crumley departed Georgia following the 1988 season; his kicking style and mile-long mask having never been seen in Athens since.
#4 THE IRON MASK: He was Georgia's first pure drop-back passing quarterback; his 38 career wins as a starting signal caller stood as an NCAA record for 30 years; he rushed for 16 touchdowns, scored three receiving, and even intercepted a then-UGA-record 13 career passes playing defense; yet, Johnny Rauch broke his cheek bone during his sophomore season, of all things, while returning a kickoff. For five entire games in 1946, Rauch was equipped with a mask made of spring steel covered in leather to protect his injury. During this time, the media dubbed him "The Man in the Iron Mask," or since Rauch would often play nearly all, if not the entire 60 minutes of a ballgame, the "Iron Man in the Iron Mask."
#3 ONE-BAR MASK: Introduced during the early-1950s, the simple one-bar facemask was essentially the first mask to be widely worn by the Bulldogs. Primarily skilled-positioned players donned the one-bar until around the mid-1960s when it was mostly reserved for placekickers and punters. Joey Hester (1986-1989) was the last Bulldog punter to wear the one-bar, and finally in 1990, the mask made its last appearance on a Georgia gridiron by All-SEC placekicker and eventually the NFL's all-time leading scorer, John Kasay (photo).
#2 O'MALLEY'S NOSE MASHER: While some of his teammates are sporting the one-bar mask during the 1954 season, senior end Joe O'Malley introduces some sort of nose guard/mask for protection. Whether it was protecting an injured nose, or worn to keep O'Malley from injury, the nose protector evidently did the overall team captain some good. Known as a defensive terror, and one having a knack to block kicks, O'Malley suddenly becomes a pass-receiving threat as well while wearing the mask. The Scranton, Pa. native ends his UGA career earning All-SEC recognition for the second time in three seasons.
#1 THE VERY FIRST?: Fullback Louis Woodruff was never in the limelight as a member of the Georgia varsity (1939-1941). Back when one had to see significant playing time to even earn a letter, Woodruff never lettered while at Georgia, although he was instrumental in a win over The Citadel in the 1939 season opener. In 1941, Woodruff entered his senior campaign as merely Georgia's third-string fullback (out of the team's three at the position). However, through all the archives I've searched, it appears then while posing for preseason photos and although the mask is attached to a dark, practice helmet or one worn in games prior to 1941 (Georgia first donned silver helmets that season), Woodruff evidently unveils the first standard facemask in UGA football history. And, wouldn't it make sense for the very first mask to rank first on this list?
Honorable Mention: THE CAGE: Frank Sinkwich broke his jaw during the second game of the 1941 season against South Carolina following a 50-yard run when the Gamecocks committed unnecessary roughness on the All-American halfback. Despite his jaw wired shut and unable to breathe freely, Sinkwich refuses to be sidelined. He also refuses to wear the pictured eyesore made of steel, which was laced up in the back, specifically designed for the Georgia star. Instead, for the remainder of the season, Sinkwich would wear a simple chin strap of metal, covered in leather. Described as a "cage," making Sinkwich appear as a "creature from another world," the metal contraption was interestingly not worn by the eventual Heisman Trophy winner because of its appearance, but because Sinkwich "couldn't see through the bars so well."