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May 18, 2011

Jake's Finally in the Hall, but How?

Upon hearing the news that legendary Bulldog defensive back-punt returner-man of mystery Jake Scott had finally been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, my initial thought was that it was about time.  My second: Hell must have just frozen over for many believed, including perhaps the great Scott himself, that because of the powers that be, he would never be headed to the Hall.

As I mentioned in a post of mine just over a year ago following Scott's nomination for the 2010 class, my intrigue with the man began when I was a youngster.  As we drove by the Georgia Coliseum one day, my father pointed and told me of the Bulldog football player that drove his motorcycle up one end of the arena and back down the other.  I was instantly captivated.  

My interest continued to heighten just a few years ago after reading Dave Hyde's sensational piece on the fascinating yet evasive Scott, whose life, history, and even whereabouts seemed to be surrounded by mystery.

The true mystery is why it took so long for arguably the greatest defensive player ever at Georgia to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.  

The reason is the same as to why there are many other deserving players not included, yet Coach Jim Donnan, who was at Division I-AA Marshall for just six seasons and had a sub-par five years at Georgia, was inducted less than a decade after his coaching career ended.  

The reason is also the same as to why the first criterion of Hall of Fame eligibility is "FIRST AND FOREMOST, A PLAYER MUST HAVE RECEIVED MAJOR FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA RECOGNITION," yet inductees like Archie Manning and our own Fran Tarkenton were never first-team All-Americans as chosen by a major selector.

Simply put, the reason is political, and as mentioned in my post from March 2010, there can be a lot of politics involved when the National Football Foundation's (NFF) Honors Court actually selects the class.

So, how did Jake Scott finally get chosen this year by the Honors Court when he should have been inducted decades ago?  Why this particular class and not last year when Scott was also nominated?  What was the difference? 

I spoke with a contact of mine, who works closely with the NFF, and he said (off the record) that the Honors Court, with some nudging from a higher up (I won't mention the name) at the College Football Hall of Fame, "is trying to undo some of the earlier committee oversights and left-offs such as Billy Cannon, Gene Washington [of Michigan State], Ed Dyas (just before he died), and Jake Scott."

Although as many as three decades late, I guess the most important thing is not how, but the fact that Scott is now in the Hall of Fame where he belongs, even if undeservingly left out in the past.

Of course, from what we know of Jake Scott, he could probably care less...

May 16, 2011

All-Time Transfers

Cleveland Gary's struggles to hold onto the football would continue at Miami (Fla) and the NFL; however, his decision to transfer from Georgia turned out to be a wise one.
Over the weekend, a friend of mine asked me if an ex-Georgia football player had ever later played against the Bulldogs, mentioning the intriguing possibility of transferring Washaun Ealey and/or Zach Mettenberger, who transferred to LSU a year ago, possibly facing their old team down the road.

The first prominent transfer, so to speak, to leave UGA and then later play against Georgia in football was halfback Dan Sage.  Sage was voted the Red and Black's team captain as only a junior in 1905 when, of the 11 projected starters for the year, he was the only one to have played at all during the season before.

By 1908, Sage had graduated from school and was playing football for an Atlanta club team - the Olympians.  Georgia opened its 1908 season by soundly defeating the Olympians and their captain Sage by a score of 29-to-5. 

Since then, although there have been a few more ex-Bulldog vs. Georgia meetings, I think it is just as meaningful to mention some of the distinguishable players that transferred from UGA, whether they went on to play against the Bulldogs or not.

During the 1940s, Georgia had several players begin their collegiate careers in Athens, join the military because of World War II, and then resume their schooling and football elsewhere during or following the war.

The most well-known of this bunch was George Young, who made such an impression at the end position on Georgia's 1942 freshman team that he was allowed to travel with the varsity to the Rose Bowl.  Young entered the Navy during wartime and earned a spot on the acclaimed 1944 Great Lakes NTS (Navy Training Station in Illinois) team that competed against major college competition and reached as high as No. 5 in the AP Poll.  One of Great Lakes' victories was a 12-10 decision over the Third Air Force Gremlins, led by a former teammate of Young's - legendary Charley Trippi.

Young would eventually attend and play for Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio and then the NFL's Cleveland Browns for eight seasons from 1946-1953.

Much-heralded quarterback Rick Arrington (you might be more familiar with his daughter) is perhaps the most highly-recruited player to transfer from Georgia.  After backing up Kirby Moore on the Bulldogs' 1966 SEC title team, Arrington decided to transfer to Tulsa, where he was the team's starting signal caller in 1969.  From 1970-1972, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the early 1980s, Georgia had a couple of players turned turncoats - quarterback John Dewberry and Tyrone Sorrells - transfer to The Eternal Enemy.  After excelling on the Bulldogs' 1981 JV squad, Dewberry departed for Georgia Tech, where he was the Jackets' starting quarterback from 1983 through 1985 (and winner of two out of three against Georgia, I'm reluctant to mention). 

Sorrells caught one pass while at Georgia during the 1982 and 1983 seasons, had some trouble in the classroom, and transferred to Tech.  Later, it was revealed he had little trouble accepting help when a UGA alum admitted to arranging a loan for Sorrells of $900 for a Buick Electra.  Sorrells started at left tackle for the Yellow Jackets in 1986 (and lost to Georgia in his final collegiate game, I'm happy to mention).         

Cleveland Gary, from Indian Town, FL, was a Parade All-American in high school and rushed for 240 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman at Georgia in 1984.  With stiff competition from fellow tailbacks Lars Tate, Tron Jackson, and freshmen Tim Worley and Keith Henderson in 1985 (someone please remind me how the heck we averaged only 7 wins from 1984-1986 with that stable of backs...), Gary went from the Bulldogs' top tailback in the spring, to third-string in the summer, to the fifth tailback when the season opened.

In the opening-game against Alabama, Gary dressed out but didn't play, and within days decided to transfer to Miami (Fla).  With the Hurricanes, Gary was on a national championship team in 1987, led the team in rushing and receiving as a first-team All-American in 1988, and was a first-round pick of the 1989 NFL Draft.  Gary played five seasons in the pros and, last I heard, currently is the owner of several businesses.

Brent and Todd Collins, brothers from New Market, TN, each arrived at Georgia (Brent in 1986, Todd two years later) regarded as the best linebacker recruit out of high school.  After playing a reserve role his first two seasons, Brent was leading the 1988 Bulldogs in tackles until suffering a groin injury in the seventh game of the year.  In his first day of practice that same season, Todd had suffered an arch injury, was redshirted, and later contracted mononucleosis and infected sinuses.

In mid-December, both Brent and Todd announced they were transferring, citing their frustrations with the injuries, which reportedly triggered depression in each brother.  At Carson-Newman (Jefferson City, TN), Brent was the team's leading tackler in 1989, an NAIA All-American, and was drafted in the seventh round of the '90 NFL Draft, but never played in the league.  Todd first transferred to Tennessee, and then again to Carson-Newman, where he followed a similar path as his brother: leading tackler in 1991, an NAIA All-American, and was drafted in the third round of the '92 NFL Draft, playing eight seasons in the league.

Torin Kirtsey was Georgia's leading rusher as a freshman in 1995 and in two seasons rushed for a combined 890 yards and 7 touchdowns.  Following a string of disciplinary and academic problems, Kirtsey quit the team and appeared to be headed to rival South Carolina.  However, once the Gamecocks learned of Kirtsey's issues, they rescinded their invitation.

By 1998, Kirtsey had enrolled at Middle Tennessee State.  In his first game as a Blue Raider against Tennessee State, Kirtsey broke the school single-game records for rushing (251) and all-purpose (331) yardage and would lead the Ohio Valley Conference in rushing eight games into the season.  However, in early November, Kirtsey quit the team - the second in less than two years - because of "personal reasons."  After declaring early, Kirtsey was not selected in the 1999 NFL Draft.  A few months ago, I heard that Kirtsey had been recently arrested in Jacksonville for trespassing.

Other notable Bulldog transfers of recent memory:
  • Defensive back DAVID ARCHER might have participated in only a few plays as a Bulldog, but his final play at Georgia is one of the most memorable in the Georgia Tech series.  At West Georgia, Archer would guide the Braves to a Division III National Championship in 1982 as the team's starting quarterback.   
  • After leading Georgia in punt returns in 1987 with nearly a 14-yard average, NATE LEWIS was dismissed from the team because of academic reasons.  Lewis transferred to Oregon Tech and would be selected in the seventh round of the 1990 NFL Draft.  Lewis had a solid six-year career in the pros, including being named All-Pro in 1991. 
  • From what I gather, JOE DUPREE is the only ex-Bulldog in the modern era to start at quarterback for Georgia (1990) and then for another school (Georgia Southern, 1992-1994).
  • From what I gather, MICHAEL GREER is the only ex-Bulldog in the modern era to catch a touchdown pass at Georgia (1997-1999) and then for another school (Valdosta State, 2001).
  • Much-heralded quarterbacks DANIEL COBB and NATE HYBL both arrived at Georgia during the late-90s and transferred following the 1998 season.  Although both started during the 2001 and 2002 seasons (Cobb at Auburn, Hybl at Oklahoma), Cobb ended his career backing up Jason Campbell while Hybl led the Sooners to a Rose Bowl victory.  
  • KAWIKA MITCHELL returned to his native Florida after redshirting at Georgia in 1998. At South Florida, the linebacker was eventually the team's defensive MVP for 2002 and a 2nd-round pick of the 2003 NFL Draft.  The 2010 season marked Mitchell's eighth in the league and his fourth NFL team.
  • After catching a combined two passes in two seasons at Georgia (1999-2000), tight end JASON RADER decided to return home to his native West Virginia.  At Marshall, Radar caught a combined 60 passes in 2002 and 2003 and would eventually play in the NFL for two seasons.
  • Like Kirtsey and Ealey, MICHAEL COOPER led the Bulldogs in rushing as a mere freshman but following his sophomore season, decided to transfer.  Because of the presence of Kregg Lumpkin, Danny Ware, and Thomas Brown, Cooper headed to Southwest Missouri State after a combined 798 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns in 2003-2004.  With the Bears in 2005-2006, similarly to his output at Georgia, Cooper rushed for a combined 691 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns.      
So, to answer my friend's question, Ealey and/or Mettenberger would be part of only a few one-time varsity Dawgs to later be pitted against their old team, along with Sage, Sorrells, Dupree, and Cobb.  Perhaps as interesting is the fact that Ealey is likely the most noteworthy player - in terms of his accomplishments as a Bulldog - Georgia football has ever had transfer out of the program.

Nearly all of the players I mentioned had distinguishable careers after they had transferred from Georgia, whether at the following school and/or the professional level.  Ealey, on the other hand, led the Bulldogs in rushing for each of his first two seasons, gaining a combined 1,528 yards while breaking the school's modern-day record for most rushing touchdowns in a game.

Only six other Bulldogs in history gained more yards rushing in their first two varsity seasons than Ealey: Kevin McLee, Herschel Walker, Rodney Hampton, Garrison Hearst, Thomas Brown, and Knowshon Moreno.  That's some good company...  Of course, more telling is the number of Bulldog fans, including myself, who believe the Ealey transfer is actually a good thing for the UGA football program.

Whether it's good for Ealey or not - does he end up more like a Cleveland Gary or a Torin Kirtsey - is all up to Washaun.

May 6, 2011

Black Bulldog Quarterbacks

Shortly after my last post on the first black football players at UGA, I received an email from a reader asking if I knew who Georgia's first African-American quarterback was and (what number) black quarterback in Bulldog history is newcomer Christian LeMay...

Notably, while African Americans started playing major college football in the Northeast and Midwest shorty after the sport's inception, for the most part, black quarterbacks at traditionally white schools did not emerge until much later. 

For example, not until the early 1950s did a black quarterback appear in the Big Ten and NFL when Michigan State and the Chicago Bears' Willie Thrower was the first for both.  In 1890, Michigan's George Jewett was the Big Ten's first African-American football player; however, it would be more than 80 years later before the Wolverines featured a black quarterback (Dennis Franklin, 1972-1974).

When southern college athletics finally integrated, the black quarterback was a major part of the movement.  At Georgia, just a little over four years after the first African Americans saw varsity action versus Baylor in 1972, the first black Bulldog quarterback appeared in a game when third-stringer Tony Flanagan was inserted late in a 41-0 blowout win at Clemson in 1976. 

Flanagan promptly guided the Bulldogs on an 11-play, 66-yard drive, running 6:04 off the clock, capped by a Willie McClendon touchdown run.  Four weeks later against Vanderbilt, Flanagan was placed under center for Georgia's final two possessions and each, like before against Clemson, resulted in a touchdown.

Flanagan's third and final game where he saw significant action came in the 1977 Sugar Bowl against top-ranked Pittsburgh.  As I mentioned in a piece I wrote about a year ago following Zach Mettenberger's dismisal, Flanagan's performance versus the Panthers was forgettable (albeit just four plays); of course, besides perhaps the punting of Bucky Dilts, the entire team played rather horribly.  However, even amidst the embarrassing loss, at the time, the game was of the most significance for Georgia, and not just because Farrah Fawcett was in attendance...

As Pitt coach Johnny Majors was still having his MVP quarterback Matt Cavanaugh throw bombs with a 24-point lead late in the game, while Tony Dorsett appeared focused on a Sugar Bowl rushing record and complaining about Bulldog fans "aggrevating" him all week, Georgia football was planning for its future and, in the process, experiencing somewhat of a transformation.

When departing senior and No. 2-quarterback Matt Robinson came off the field midway through the final quarter (senior and first-stringer Ray Goff had been removed earlier) and sophomore Flanagan entered the game, it was an indication for the first time the Bulldogs' historical move to an African American as their primary quarterback, as Flanagan would undoubtedly be the front-runner the following season.

"Whether I'm on the first string, the second string, the third string or even no string at all," said Flanagan following the Sugar Bowl loss and looking ahead to the next season.  "I just want to make some contribution."

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my Flanagan-Mettenberger piece, during the summer of 1977, Flanagan was ruled academically ineligible and would never play again for the Bulldogs (but would eventually persevere). 

Over the next eight years, Georgia featured only two black quarterbacks but neither started a game until redshirt freshman Wayne Johnson (photo) did so in the 1985 season opener against Alabama on Labor Day night.

In one of the most exciting but heart-breaking Bulldog games I can remember, Johnson was benched for James Jackson - another black quarterback - but then returned to jump start a sluggish offense.  Johnson finished with 82 yards on 8 of 13 passing, one touchdown and no interceptions.  He would start Georgia's next two games - victories over Baylor and Clemson - only to be benched again for Jackson.  

As far as what number African-American quarterback Christian LeMay is in Georgia football history, that's difficult to determine as, we all know, many players have arrived at UGA as a "quarterback" only to promptly switch positions and never play a down under center.

However, I do figure that there have been 10 black Bulldog varsity players beginning with Flanagan, playing solely the quarterback position at the time (excludes Terrence Edwards under Coach Donnan, Washaun Ealey in a "Wild Dog" formation, etc.), who have taken at least one snap as a Georgia signal caller:

Rushed 8 times for 73 yards and a touchdown and completed only pass attempt for 16 yards as Bulldogs' No. 3 quarterback in 1976...Dismissed from team just prior to '77 season.

Played in 3 games as Georgia's No. 3 quarterback in 1980, rushing for 6 times for 26 yards and throwing an incomplete pass...Moved to defensive backfield in '81 and intercepted 5 passes from 1981-1983.

JAMES JACKSON (1984-1987)
19-9-2 career record as starter...Passing: 3,416 yards, 19 TDs...Rushing: 1,359 yards, 15 TDs.

WAYNE JOHNSON (1985-1988)
14-4 career record as starter...Passing: 1,550 yards, 6 TDs...Rushing: 341 yards, 7 TDs.

As Georgia's No. 3 quarterback, saw action in only blowout win over William & Mary, rushing twice for 11 yards...After openly complaining about his playing time, transferred to Western Carolina, where he was the team's starter for one season.

Played in last 5 games of '90 season as a freshman (started in season finale vs. eventual national champion Georgia Tech - a 17-point loss), passing for 202 yards, rushing for 186, and responsible for 2 TDs...Is one of just two Georgia quarterbacks since 1976 (Quincy Carter being the other) to rush for 100+ yards in a single game...Transferred to Georgia Southern, where he played against Georgia in 1992 and was the Eagles' starter in 1993. 

In the 6 games where Ward played only the quarterback position, including '95 Peach Bowl, started 5 times (1-4 record as starter)...Passing: 1,285 yards, 2 TDs...Rushing: 186 yards, 2 TDs.

QUINCY CARTER (1998-2000)
22-9 career record as starter...Passing: 6,447 yards, 35 TDs...Rushing: 606 yards, 11 TDs.

Georgia's No. 2 quarterback behind Carter in '99 as a sophomore, passing for 30 yards on 3 of 7 passing...Permanently moved to flanker in 2000 and caught a combined 25 passes his final two seasons.
D.J. SHOCKLEY (2002-2005)
10-2 career record as starter...Passing: 3,555 yards, 34 TDs...Rushing: 643 yards, 7 TDs.