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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.


JaxDawg said...

As a child, I used to like Dorsett when he was a Cowboy. It wasn't until later that I realized just how fucking stupid he is.

Cojones said...

DJ was injured and didn't play in the FU game(one of the losses). I guess you could use the Sugar Bowl as one of his losses.

Patrick Garbin said...

Yes, "career record" includes bowl games. Thanks for reading and your post.

Chickasaw said...

Patrick: your last 2 entries reinforce the great value of your uniquely historical and well informed blog. As a teenager I remember how relieved I was when most fans not only took team integration in stride, but cheered loudly for a great player like Horace King. I also remember my disappointment that Tony Flanagan was cut in '77, which turned out to be a turbulent year at QB and a losing season. Let's not forget this also helped integrate the fan base and the post game celebrations! But it's still a damn shame it took until 1972 for my favorite team to field black players.

Anonymous said...

Best UGA QB I ever saw was James Jackson & I have seen them all since Zeke Bratkowski.

Unknown said...

Why is Georgia so set against black quarterbacks. We had one quarterback who came to Georgia, then became a DB. He later went on to Auburn to win a National Championship. It seems that no other schools, in the SEC have this problem

Unknown said...

And our favorite team still refuses to have a black quarterback as a starter, to lead the team. Cam was told that he would make a great thightend, D.J. sit behind a bust qb David Greene, Mays transfered and now Watson #4 for Clemson was told that he would be a good wide receiver. Im missing one more QB's but two of these QB's came back and roasted Georgia Bulldogs. As for as Black QB's being the Leader of The Team Georgia is still stuck in their Good Old Southern mind set. THEY FEAR HAVING A BLACK LEADER AS A QB.

Anonymous said...

micheal hart from troup high school went to uga ob position he told me every where they put him he shine now i see the history they idenity crisi going on

Unknown said...

It is very sad to the schools below use black quarterbacks and Georgia doesn't, schools like Louisville, auburn, sadly Alabama lol, Baylor, Clemson, FSU, Virginia, Norte dame etc. At the same token how often do you see a white running back like mccaffrey. At the age of 9 I'm teaching my son to be a quarterback so he could hopefully one day not just play but start at the quarterback position at UGA

Anonymous said...

Good point

Unknown said...

Wayne was a good QB with a cannon for an arm. We actually played together at Hardaway High School in Columbus,Ga. It was difficult to be a black QB during those times as many people did not believe blacks were intelligent enough to play the position. Another good friend of mine was Vince Sutton who played QB at Alabama.

Unknown said...

Auburn didnt win it that year

woodn said...

Have attended almost all home games since 1956 when I was 5. I've seen the great ones like Tarkenton and the flat out winners like Belue. The most fun to watch and the most motivaed- Ward.