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March 11, 2010

One-Hit Wonders

Good thing the Dawgs (and Wyoming) had to face this guy just once...

While gathering information on Heisman Trophy finishers for my article on the third-best SEC program of all time, I noticed that Auburn's Rudi Johnson finished 10th in the trophy's voting in 2000. I then came to the realization that Johnson played for the Tigers for only a single season, but what a season it was.

Johnson came to Auburn after two years at a junior college in Kansas. In 2000, he finished first in the SEC, and ninth nationally, in rushing, gaining more than 1,500 yards for the season. Unfortunately for Georgia, Johnson bowled over the Bulldogs that year to the tune of 152 yards on 34 carries in a 29-26 Auburn win in overtime.

Thankfully for Georgia and the rest of the conference, Johnson's stay on the Plains was for just one season, as he declared early for the NFL Draft.

Remembering Johnson got me wondering whether there were any Georgia players in history who were one-hit, or one-season, wonders.

In other words, have there been any Bulldogs who were standouts in their lone season in Athens? Or, has there been anyone who may have played for more than one season at Georgia, but any contributions came in only a single year?

Georgia's one-hit wonders aren't nearly as memorable or distinguished as Auburn's Rudi, or this Rudy, but you may have heard of some of these Dawgs.

The top five one-hit wonders in Georgia football history:

5) MARK VINCENT (1987)
When Southern Methodist's football program was handed the "death penalty" in 1987, two Mustangs soon headed east for Athens—transfers Shelly Anderson and Mark Vincent.

Vincent, who had just one year of eligibility remaining, almost decided to stay at SMU to finish his degree, but the lure of playing football at tradition-filled Georgia, compelled him to become a Bulldog. Plus, unlike other schools who promised the transfer he would become an immediate starter, assistant Ray Goff told Vincent he would have to compete for a spot in Georgia's defensive backfield. Vincent respected Goff's honesty and integrity.

A two-year starter at SMU, Vincent promptly started for Georgia's "Junkyard Dogs II" defense of 1987 at right cornerback. He immediately fit in with the team and was recognized as an intelligent, team player. By the middle of the season, Vincent was considered one of the leaders of the Bulldogs' defense.

Vincent finished the season tied for the team lead in interceptions with three (he made only one interception in three years combined at SMU), including two against Ole Miss. In addition, he was the only member of Georgia's secondary to start all 12 games.

4) HAFFORD HAY (1910)
Along with Bob McWhorter (UGA football's first All-American) and Coach Alex Cunningham, Hafford Hay left the Gordon Institute for UGA in 1910 and played an integral role in immediately turning around Georgia's football program.

Hay, the Red and Black’s starting quarterback in eight of the team’s nine games, was considered “heady” under center and a standout on defense. Although a neophyte, it was said he ran the squad like a veteran. Despite Hay’s small stature, he was also recognized as a dangerous broken-field runner.

In addition, Hay served as Georgia’s sole placekicker, converting 33 point-after touchdowns. Against Mercer, he kicked a field goal—an extremely rare occurrence in football at that time. Hay also tallied four touchdowns on the season, scoring a total of 56 points—second best on the squad behind McWhorter’s 100.

Nothing is known regarding Hay following the Red and Blacks’ successful 1910 season. He lettered for just the one season and did not return the following year.

After quarterbacking one of Georgia’s greatest teams, the cool, field general seemingly disappeared, leaving the Red and Black faithful to wonder, where have you gone, Hafford Hay?

I know I'm cheating a little by putting Verron Haynes of 2001 on this list. The fullback from Brooklyn and transfer from Western Kentucky did make some contributions to Georgia's 2000 squad as a junior, starting two games and scoring touchdowns against Ole Miss and Virginia in the O'ahu Bowl. However, few were familiar with the seldom-used blocking back prior to 2001, specifically the Tennessee game and his game-winning play.

Two weeks following his memorable touchdown catch, Haynes rushed for 86 yards against Kentucky, caught three passes for 73 yards, and scored three touchdowns. By the end of the season, with Musa Smith hampered with injuries and Jasper Sanks kicked off the team, Haynes had been switched from fullback to tailback and was Georgia’s primary running threat.

In the Bulldogs’ final four games, including the Music City Bowl against Boston College, Haynes had one of the best stretches running the ball in Georgia football history, averaging more than 163 yards on 29 carries per game and scoring a total of five touchdowns. His 691 rushing yards, not including 132 in the bowl game, led the team in 2001.

Haynes’ best rushing performance was 207 yards on 39 carries against Georgia Tech. In the past 65 seasons, he is one of only eight Bulldogs to rush for 200+ yards in a single game.

2) JOHNNY COOK (1943)
World War II prohibited eight of the SEC's 12 teams from playing football in 1943. After considering also dropping the sport only a day before its opening game, Georgia decided to go ahead and play its season despite consisting of primarily 17-year-old freshmen too young for the War's draft.

In a surprising, 25-7 upset victory over Presbyterian, the Bulldogs realized they might be better than originally forecasted and found their next star player in the process—Johnny Cook.

Cook, "Rome's [Georgia] gift to Athens," was a spectacular forward passer, reminiscent of the Heisman Trophy-winning Frank Sinkwich from the season before.

He was also effective when handling the football, scoring four first-half touchdowns in a 46-7 thrashing of VMI later in the season. Cook's four scores included a 78-yard rush and 80-yard punt return and would not be bettered at Georgia until more than 50 years later (Robert Edwards scored a modern-school record five touchdowns vs. South Carolina in 1995).

Cook, the lone first-team All-SEC selection for the 1943 Bulldogs, led the nation in passing, completing 73 of 157 passes for 1,007 yards and eight touchdowns. He also added 361 yards and nine scores rushing and was tied for fourth in the nation in scoring, tallying 72 points on 12 touchdowns (nine rushing, two on punt returns, and one via a kickoff return).

Soon after the season, Cook followed the same path as many of the young men of his time as he was drafted into the military. He would not return to the University until just prior to the start of the 1946 football season. However, instead of returning to Georgia’s lineup as its star tailback, Cook found himself primarily sitting on the Bulldogs’ bench during the year, as there was overwhelming depth in the team’s backfield. After finishing second in the SEC in scoring as a mere freshman in 1943, Cook did not score a single point in his second and final year as a Bulldog.

Regardless, to date, Cook remains the only Bulldog ever to lead the country in passing and, besides the great Sinkwich, the only Georgia player to finish in the top 10 in both passing and scoring the same season.

Pulpwood Smith, the 1982 Class AAAA Back of the Year in Georgia for Coffee High School, got his nickname from when he was a youngster and helped his dad—a pulpwooder—at his job.

Smith was drafted by the California Angels in high school but spurned baseball to sign with Texas A&M to play football. With controversy stemming from A&M's signing of running back George Smith (also of Coffee High and a story within itself), Pulpwood elected to go to Georgia instead.

As a freshman in 1983, Smith played in just one game, rushing for 25 yards on four carries against Kentucky. That offseason, he worked his way up Georgia's depth chart to the starting fullback position by the season opener of 1984.

Against Southern Miss to open the campaign, all eyes were on freshman tailback and future NFLer Lars Tate—the top running back prospect in the nation. Instead, it was Pulpwood who captivated the Sanford Stadium crowd, bursting for a 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a 26-19 Georgia victory.

Three games later against Alabama, Pulpwood ran for a 44-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game, and on Georgia's next possession, added a 34-yard score on a burst up the middle. Two weeks later against Vanderbilt, Smith had a 47-yard touchdown run. Smith's long, scoring jaunts were reminding some of another Bulldog back, Herschel Walker, who had played just a couple years earlier.

Smith finished the year leading the team with 665 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and was recognized by Coach Vince Dooley as the team's best player. Nevertheless, during the spring of 1985, Pulpwood was declared academically ineligible and was dismissed from school, never to play football again between the hedges.

From November 1983 to mid-October 1985, a span of 20 games, Georgia had just two individual, 100-yard rushing performances, both coming from Pulpwood.

Through the 2009 season, there have been exactly 99 Bulldogs rush for 400 or more career yards at Georgia. Of all these, only four have a better yards-per-carry average than Pulpwood (5.96).

Because of Smith's catchy nickname and his (well, someone pretending to be him) game previews (Warning: Rated R), his name is recognized today (albeit for unconventional reasons) by many Bulldog fans who never knew of Pulpwood's football career at Georgia—a brief career unfortunately cut short.

Have I missed anyone? Can you think of any other Bulldogs who were one-hit wonders?


Unknown said...

I remember Pulpwood quite well...each of the runs you described him on in 1984 went right behind me at right guard...haha...32 Dive right...he was the nicest guy off the field as well. Great blog by the way!!!

Jimmy Holton

Anonymous said...

One of the greatest one hit wonders was Michael Johnson. Sure he contributed in other games; however he will always be remembered for one game, Auburn 02.

Anonymous said...

keith montgomery. like pulpwood, led Georgia in rushing the one season he played. 1983, i think...

Anonymous said...

Three transfers from SMU. Mark(?) Bowen came with Vincent and Anderson and was our punt catcher.