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January 21, 2011

There Goes Pulpwood!

The first time I ever heard the name Andre "Pulpwood" Smith was shortly after he broke off a 50-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter of Georgia's 1984 season opener - a 26-19 Bulldogs' win over Southern Mississippi.

Assuming the highly-recruited Lars Tate, who had recently scored the first of what would eventually be 37 touchdowns in a Bulldog career, had scored again, from our seats in Sanford Stadium, I looked up at my father and asked, "Was that Lars Tate?"

"No... but I have no idea who it was," my dad responded.  

The two of us, along with most likely tens of thousands of others, had to unknowingly wait until the PA announcer declared that it was "Pulpwood" Smith who had scored - the first of what would eventually be just four touchdowns as a Bulldog.

Eight months ago, I posted the first of Smith's two touchdowns against Alabama in 1984.  Of my two dozen videos on YouTube, the clip of Pulpwood has been the most popular.  I'm guessing this is so simply because of the man, the myth, the legend of Andre "Pulpwood" Smith (or because of football-crazed Alabama fans willing to extensively search for and watch any kind of footage of their Tide). 

Now, I present nearly 10 minutes of, at times, blurry (with buzzing audio) footage from an afternoon in Birmingham when every Bulldog fan finally became accustomed with the sophomore fullback's name:

Looking back, it's certainly not surprising it took most Georgia fans some time before becoming familiar with Pulpwood.  In 1984, backs Tron Jackson and David McCluskey returned from the previous season's 10-1-1 and fourth-ranked team, the Bulldogs had signed Parade All-Americans Tate and Cleveland Gary, while JUCO-transfer Tony Mangrum was perceived to perhaps be the best of them all.

Tate, from Indianapolis and regarded as maybe "the next Herschel Walker," was so celebrated that, at one point during the opening game against Southern Miss, the stadium crowd already began chanting his name, "Lars...Tate...Lars...Tate..."

Even though he was a one-time Georgia AAAA Back of the Year, there was hardly much room for Pulpwood in the Bulldogs' stable of backs.  Despite what the play-by-play announcer indicates on the clip,  Smith did play on UGA's varsity as a true freshman in 1983, albeit for a single game, carrying four times for 25 yards in a 47-21 blowout of Kentucky. 

With Georgia only leading 16-13 in the first game of the 1984 season, you can imagine the surprise when the little-known fullback was handed the ball and sprinted 50 yards to paydirt.

A month later and following the victory over the Crimson Tide, Pulpwood was leading the team in rushing, touchdowns scored, and averaging more than eight yards per carry - an absolutely implausible four-game performance unforeseen by the Bulldogs, their followers, and even the "head" Dawg.

From an article in The Red and Black after the Alabama win, a writer stated that Vince Dooley, when asked about Pulpwood's 118-yard, two-touchdown performance, began "grasping for words and looking off for a second before moving on to another question.  The improbability of Smith's emergence choked off even Dooley's descriptive prose."

By the end of the year, Smith had secured the starting fullback position, maintained his team lead in rushing and touchdowns, and was even recognized by Dooley as "the best player on the Georgia team."  Nevertheless, Pulpwood's prominence would promptly come to an end in Athens when he became an "academic casualty" of UGA during the Winter quarter of 1985.

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith - the most distinctive "one-hit wonder" in UGA football history - was a Bulldog for only a mere season (and some change).  Just as quickly as he had sprinted into the hearts and minds of the Bulldog Nation, he disappeared - a slip away reminiscent of the two he executed against the Tide.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories. Pulpwood is a DGD! You can find Andre Pulpwood Smith on Facebook:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the past is better than the present. I really enjoyed the video on "pulpwood." He was destined to have an outstanding career at Georgia but there is one thing he forgot--that he was a student in addition to being a football player.
Old Dawg