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April 23, 2010

Biggest Bulldog Busts and Steals

Photo: Starting at fullback against Clemson in 1994, Terrell Davis runs for some of his just 26 yards on only six carries against the Tigers in Athens.  Davis played behind Garrison Hearst in '92, was part of an offense switching to a predominantly passing game in '93, and was in Ray Goff's doghouse and endured injuries in '94.  Still, "TD" managed 1,657 career rushing yards and 529 yards receiving in three seasons at Georgia.  What was perceived by NFL scouts as a lack of production along with a slow 40-yard dash time, caused the eventual, borderline Hall of Famer to not be drafted until the sixth round of the 1995 Draft.

In anticipation of the NFL Draft, the NFL Network recently aired the Draft's top 10 steals and busts of all time.  It got me thinking and I came up with Georgia's version. 

I considered both the AFL and NFL drafts since the very first one in 1936.  To be a bust, a Bulldog had to be chosen in the first or second round.  To be a steal, one had to be the 100th player or later taken or not selected at all.  This criterion barely excluded Hines Ward, Phillip Daniels, and John Kasay, all who might have made my steal list if not for the limitation. 

The countdown of the top Bulldog steals of the Draft:

Ferguson started at nose tackle for Georgia during both the 1995 and 1996 seasons, earning second team All-SEC in his final year. The 229th pick of 240 total selections in the '97 Draft, not much was expected from the former Bulldog when he was chosen by the New York Jets. Nevertheless, 12 seasons later, Ferguson is still in the league having played 159 games (127 starts) for the Jets, Cowboys, and Dolphins.

In 1977, a court ruled that it was against the U.S. Constitution to restrict an individual player to a single team.  This judgment placed the '77 NFL Draft on hold for months and a number of players, like Wilson, couldn't wait to be a pro football player.  Moonpie, a first team All-American at offensive tackle in 1976, signed with Toronto of the CFL in February.  Regardless, more than two months later, he was also drafted by Cincinnati in the fourth round (105th selection), just in case he ever decided to play in the NFL.  After one year with the Argonauts, Wilson was a backup left tackle with the Bengals in 1978 and 1979.  In 1980, he moved to right tackle and for the next 10 seasons started all but one of his teams' (Cincinnati and Seattle) 149 regular-season games.

Hauss played during the lowly Johnny Griffith era (1961-63), starting at center as a junior and senior at Georgia.  Also a dependable defensive player, Hauss wasn't selected until the ninth round (115th overall) and primarily only because the Washington Redskins thought he could play linebacker for them.  Hauss played immediately at center in 1964 and became a starter the following season.  A Redskin for 14 seasons through 1977, Hauss made the Pro Bowl five years and earned All-Pro recognition in seven. 

While he was in his third season with the USFL's New Jersey Generals, the Dallas Cowboys gambled and selected Herschel in the fifth round of the '85 draft with the 114th pick.  In order for Walker to play in the NFL, Dallas would either have to buy out his extravagant contract with the Generals or hope the USFL folded.  The latter occurred just prior to the league's fourth season and Herschel was in the Cowboys' backfield for the 1986 campaign, sharing the load with Tony Dorsett.  As I've mentioned before, just as much as it can be argued he is one of the greatest college football players of all time, it can be suggested Walker was one of the most undervalued players ever in the NFL.  

Despite catching only 42 passes in his career as a Bulldog from 1955 to 1957 (Georgia completed only 150 in the three seasons combined), Orr led the SEC in receptions as a sophomore and senior from his halfback position.  He was taken in the 25th round and 291st overall by the Los Angeles Rams but played for Pittsburgh in his first professional season.  Orr was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1958 when he was third in the league with 910 yards receiving.  He became a Baltimore Colt in 1961, where he finished out his career in 1970.  Regarded as one of pro football's best receivers of the 1960s, Orr still ranks fourth all time in NFL history in career yards per touch with a 19.4 average.

"The Snake" left Georgia following his junior year of 1968 after only two seasons as a Bulldog and as one of the school's greatest defenders and punt returners in history.  After one season in the CFL, Scott was chosen in the seventh round (159th overall pick) by the Miami Dolphins, where he would be regarded as one of the league's best defensive backs of the 1970s.  A five-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl MVP in just his first six seasons, Scott played his final three seasons in Washington (1976-78).  For his career, he intercepted 49 passes and had a 10.4 punt return average.

An expected fourth round pick, Davis slipped all the way to Denver in the sixth round with the 196th selection.  He made an immediate impact, rushing for 1,117 yards as a rookie in 1995.  From 1996 to 1998, Davis had arguably the best three-season stint by any NFL running back in history.  He rushed for more than 1,500 yards each year (2,008 in '98), scored a total of 53 touchdowns, was a three-time Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro, and was on two Super Bowl winning teams.  Injuries slowed Davis from 1999 to 2001, when he played in only 16 combined games, rushing for less than 1,200 yards.  He retired following the '01 season.  Davis ranks third all time in NFL history in rushing yards per game (97.5), behind greats Jim Brown and Barry Sanders.  

Honorable Mention: Bobby Walston, Dick Yelvington, Clarence Kay, Tommy Lyons

It's difficult for me to brand any Bulldog a bust, so here's my opinion of the top Draft, let's say, underachievers from Georgia:

Worley, who left Georgia as the school's sixth all-time leading rusher in only 26 career games, was the seventh pick of the 1989 draft.  He got off to a good start with Pittsburgh, rushing for 770 yards and starting 14 games as a rookie on a Steelers team that made the playoffs.  However, five years later he had retired from the league with less than 1,800 career rushing yards.

Sullivan, the sixth overall selection of the 2003 Draft, was New Orleans' starting left defensive tackle as a rookie.  In three seasons with the Saints, Sullivan started only 16 games, recording only 1.5 sacks.  Prior to the 2006 season, he was traded to New England but was released from the team only four months later. 

Arguably the greatest Bulldog quarterback off all time, Rauch's professional playing career wasn't nearly as successful.  The second pick of the 1949 Draft by Detroit, Rauch didn't start under center until his third year with the New York Yanks.  He struggled mightily in his first start, was ejected for throwing a punch, and would only start for two more games until he quit following the 1951 season.  In 1952, Rauch tried his hand at coaching as the quarterbacks coach at Florida.  He would soon make it back to Georgia as an assistant (1955-58) and later became a head coach in the NFL, guiding the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl II.  

The speedy Scott is mostly known for running past and away from the Gators in '80 and ending his career the following season as the Bulldogs' all-time leading receiver - a record that stood for 14 years.  The 13th overall selection of the 1982 Draft, Scott was never better than third on the team in receiving during his four years with the New Orleans Saints.  After being let go in 1985 having caught just 69 career passes, the Atlanta Falcons picked up Scott, only to release him prior to the 1986 season.   

As a freshman at Georgia, the 6-9 and more than 300-pound Williams was a reserve defensive tackle and a kick-blocking extraordinaire.  His six career blocked kicks (4 PATs, 2 field goals), all in his first two seasons, remain a school record.  Williams was moved to offensive left tackle as a sophomore and started there his next three seasons, earning first team All-American in 1993.  The 14th pick of the 1994 Draft by Philadelphia, Williams started all 16 games for the Eagles at left tackle and played well before his professional football career went to pot, literally.  After numerous failed drug tests, Williams was suspended and then banned by the NFL after just one season in the league.

Interestingly but sadly, four of the five Bulldog busts above all have something unfortunately in common along with a couple other Georgia players, who were considered for the list, namely, Odell Thurman and Quincy Carter - drug use was a major factor in the downfall or ending of their time in pro football.

If only they had heeded the words of Nancy Reagan to "Just Say No"...  Who knows what could have been of their NFL careers.


TalentAgent said...

Are you saying that Moon Pie Wilson, was a Bust? Huh? I just talked with Two former NFL Coaches. I brought up this mention of Wilson. They were both shocked, you are calling them "Busts". One of them said they had Special Plays that they used to re-route any Running Back Away from Wilson.The other Coach said he was among the "most-feared"Players, he ever had to deal with! Case Closed!

and....You did somehow forgot to bring up one of the Dawgs biggest NFL Busts......Scott Woerner. A Stand-out, in Anthens, during his College days........But, a complete dismal failure in the NFL.Even the Falcons gave A him a shot. After that.......Never to be heard from again! I'm amased you did not include him on Your List.

TalentAgent said...

whoops......It is spelled "Athens".(too many drinks of Merlot!)Just to let you know I did catch the miss-spelling! T/A