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December 6, 2013

Feet On Mom's Table Delivered a Legend to UGA

"When you let Worley go upstream, I'd hate
to tackle him," said Vandy head coach Watson
Brown.  "He'd be playing noseguard for us."
I want to salute my friend, Tim Worley, who will be celebrated as Georgia's 2013 SEC Football Legend at tomorrow's conference title game.  Tim is only the 20th Bulldog to be bestowed the honor of a football legend in the conference, while becoming just the program's fourth recognized running back, joining greats Charley Trippi, Herschel Walker, and Garrison Hearst.
Besides the combination of speed and power he displayed from 1985 to 1988, likely only exceeded by Herschel of all Bulldog backs in history, what perhaps most intrigues me about Tim's Georgia career is the impact he made at the school and in the SEC in such a short period of time.  He played in just 26 career regular-season games, starting only 14.  Regardless, Tim's relatively short duration at Georgia was nearly no duration at all.  Initially, the Bulldogs  were actually the blue-chip recruit's fourth choice.
Florida State was attractive to the native of Lumberton, North Carolina, until Sammie Smith, the nation's most-heralded back, signed with the Seminoles.  Clemson was eliminated when Tim realized he wanted to compete at the highest level, which didn't include ACC competition in his mind.  Tennessee was ruled out when it snowed twenty inches in Knoxville on Tim's official visit.
"I was stuck in the [Tennessee] dorm the entire time," Tim informed me during an interview this week.  "First impressions matter."
And finally, there was Oklahoma, his first choice, and what was considered the greatest rushing attack in all of football at the time.  But, in the end, the Sooners were disregarded with a little help from someone who always knows best.
"Oklahoma was eliminated because [head coach] Barry Switzer put his boots on my Mom's coffee table [during a recruiting visit]," Tim says.  "She told me right then and there that I couldn't go to Norman."
Once at Georgia, Tim would become "one of the greatest SEC tailbacks of the modern era," I stated when recently asked for a press release regarding Tim's career from a historical standpoint.  "And that’s considering the fact that he only played two-and-a-half seasons at Georgia, yet he made a permanent impact on the school and the league."
Three weeks later, now that I think about it, I should have also mentioned in the release the stiff competition Tim facednot only from opposing defenses, but on his very own team.
Consider that while at Georgia, Tim shared the backfield, and its number of carries, with running backs Lars Tate, Rodney Hampton, Keith Henderson, David McCluskey, and quarterback James Jackson, all of which rushed for more than 1,300 yards while at Georgia.  There was also Tron Jackson (877 career rushing yards) and Alphonso Ellis (599).  One of the greatest SEC tailbacks of the modern era could have been even greater if not for being part of arguably the greatest stable of backs in conference history.
"I would have definitely been happy to carry the ball 35-40 times a game for four years," Tim says, "but Coach Dooley's brilliance enabled Hamp, Keith, Tate, McCluskey, Alphonso Ellis, Tron and me to be our best while sharing the ball. One of the best compliments about Coach Dooley's strategy was when the football analysts calling the games would say, 'You can't tell one of these UGA running backs from the other.'"      
As a junior in 1988, and what would be his final season at Georgia, Tim was again sharing the load for the Bulldogs, and this time with Hampton, backing up his teammate at tailback for the first seven games of the campaign.  However, halfway through the year, Tim remarkably ranked 7th in the nation in rushing and 4th in scoring despite not having started a single game.  Regardless, UGA began hyping the backup as a Heisman Trophy candidate in what was believed to be the first time, and likely the last, a reserve had ever been promoted by a school for the trophy.
"After I had my "hat trick"a kickoff return for a touchdown, passing for a touchdown, and a run from the line of scrimmage for a touchdown in the same game [against Ole Miss]that's when I started hearing 'Heisman' all the time," Tim says.  "But, I was just so grateful to be back on the field playing after missing almost two years with a knee injury."
In the fourth game of the 1986 season, Worley had been lost for the year with a knee injury.  In 1987, he played JUCO ball while rehabbing his knee and getting his grades up.
Following the "hat trick" in 1988, "Here Comes Worley" Heisman media fliers were promptly distributed, including a quote from Ole Miss head coach Billy Brewer: "Tim Worley is the most physical and abusing runner we've seen in a long time. ... We need two weeks off just to get over Tim Worley."  A week later, Vanderbilt head coach Watson Brown declared, "When you let Worley go upstream, I'd hate to tackle him.  He'd be playing noseguard for us."

Besides winners Frank Sinkwich and Walker, along with Trippi in 1946 and Hearst in 1992, to date, no other Bulldog running back has made a run for the Heisman Trophy as late in a season as Worley did in 1988.  However, the quest for the award ended during the regular season's next-to-last game at Auburn when Tim was held to 63 rushing yards and no touchdowns in a 20-10 loss.  Regardless, individual accolades have always mattered little to one of the greatest to ever put on a Bulldog uniform.
"It really was all about the team – not me," Tim says.  "I contributed as much as I could for my coaches and teammates.  I remember we had t-shirts made with the word "TEAM" in all capital letters, and right below it, the word "me" in all lower case letters.  Big TEAM, little methat was my mindset.  My wife, Dee, still has that shirt today."
What was once Worley's fourth choice 
would fortunately become
his No. 1. 
Dee, an SEC legend in her own right at Alabama as the NCAA Gymnastics All-Around Champion in 1990 and the national gymnast of the year in 1993, and Tim are co-founders of Worley Global Enterprises, a consulting firm.  Tim manages the Motivational Speaking and Life Skills Consulting division, helping leaders and leaders-in-the-making "develop their character to be above the standard of their talent."
And, speaking of above the standardway aboveTim is truly honored to be chosen among such an outstanding class of college football players, representing the strongest conference in the nation.
“When I first got the call [regarding the selection], I was literally stunned,” Tim says.  "I'm humbled and grateful."
When it comes to his career at Georgia, Tim is most grateful for the Bulldog Nation, all the past Georgia "SEC Legends," Coach Dooley, his position coaches, the trainers.  "And, every teammate I ever played with at UGA," Tim adds.  "It's times like this that really make me treasure the memories I have with teammates like Scott Adams and Keith Johnson who have gone home to be with the Lord."  Adams and Johnson, Georgia offensive lineman during the 1980s, both passed away in September.  "They blocked for me, and this honor belongs to them, too." 
To be a "football legend" is most certainly just thata tremendous honor that can be shared with many, and according to Tim, "the greatest honor of my entire football career."  And, just think, if not for the brash Switzer putting his feet up on mom's coffee table, Georgia's representative for tomorrow would be no SEC Football Legend at all. 


MaconDawg said...

Really great read, Patrick. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Hey Barry...the only person who can put their boots up on someones furniture and get away with it is Rick James.

Anonymous said...

The whole Barry Switzer being an ass in a recruit's mother's house, I swear I've heard a similar story before involving Earl Campbell. I think Switzer ate one of Earl's momma's brownies without asking. Campbell decided then to go to Texas instead of OU... - Tate

Tex Noel said...

Coach Watson Brown's comment that Worley would be his team's noseguard...show that is why, at the time, Vandy was the conference doormat. (He couldn't judge talent--thinking the Georgia back would be a defensive lineman.)