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June 29, 2012

UGA Football's First "RED" Alert

Ralph "Red" Leathers – Georgia's
better-late-than-never All-American
Similarly to my UGA football helmet and nickname/mascot projects, I am currently working on a history of Georgia's football uniform (jersey and pants).  While researching, I discovered some photos of the red numbered, red striped jersey the Bulldogs donned in the early 1930s (photo) and was instantly reminded of perhaps the greatest discovery in UGA football fact-finding lore, involving a particular "Red" jerseyed Bulldog.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of UGA athletics historian, icon, and then-publicist Dan Magill's uncovering of probably one of the worst injustices a college football player could endure – deprivation of a rightfully-earned All-American honor.

Over the years, I personally have discovered that UGA football's record keeping of yesteryear, prior to Magill's heading of the sports information department, was a tad shoddy and at times haphazard.  My biggest find has been that the Bulldogs actually won three more games in their history than they are given credit for (and lost one game – to NC State during the 1900 season – but we won't discuss that particular discovery).  However, in the days of the slide rule and when the guy who kept up with the stats was also the team doctor, janitor, and backup punter, what else would be expected?  Errors were bound to occur, even the most critical of mistakes. 

According to UGA's current archives, in 1962, Magill "uncovered information" that junior guard Ralph "Red" Maddox had been named first-team All-American by the International News Service (INS) 32 years beforehand in 1930 but, at the time, did not receive credit for the recognition.  What a find by Magill!

To have earned All-American status more than 80 years ago is even more prestigious than it would be to do so nowadays.  For one, only 11 players were recognized by the INS, nearly all of them were seniors, and Maddox was one of only two honorees from the South (Fred Sington of Alabama the other).

Hailing from Douglas, GA, Maddox was nicknamed "Red" because of his flaming red-colored hair.  And, together with another red head – Milton "Red" Leathers the pair was regarded as one of the best guard tandems in football as mere sophomores in 1929.  After just one season of playing varsity ball, the duo was acknowledged as the "million-dollar guard combination," although Maddox was somewhat undistinguished as an individual.

Maddox was described as steady and assuring, but "unspectacular," and behind standouts Leathers, end Vernon "Catfish" Smith, end Herb Maffett, fullback Jack Roberts, and halfback Marion Dickens, he was considered likely only the sixth or seventh best player on the entire Georgia team.

No wonder Maddox may have been originally omitted from being noted as the Bulldogs' seventh first-team All-American. Regardless, one may wonder how the unspectacular "Red" was actually recognized by the INS in the first place.

In those days, Georgia, or any other school from outside the Northeast, could make a name for itself, so to speak, by upsetting an intersectional traditional power.  In 1930, the Bulldogs upset Yale in the Yale Bowl 18-14 and four weeks later, escaped New York's Polo Grounds with a 7-6 upset over NYU.  And, playing on the grand national stage, there was no Bulldog that shinned brighter in the two victories than Maddox.
Hardly decipherable, the photo from the Atlanta
Constitution depicts Maddox's memorable blocked PAT
vs. NYU in 1930. The blocked ball is circled in red.

In the momentous win over the Violets in front of a whopping 63,000 in attendance, Red was said to be in on most tackles that occurred at the line of scrimmage.  In addition, according to the New York press, he "was through like a bullet to block [Jim] Tanguay's try for point after touchdown," which would turn out to be the difference in Georgia's one-point win.  What's more, Maddox didn't even start the contest.  Still, Red was praised by the Gotham media, even though one member of the press called him "Little Red Maddox."  The husky Maddox was far from little, weighing nearly 200 pounds, which was considered rather large in those days.

Primarily because of his play against Yale and particularly versus NYU, Maddox finally earned some respect from the media when he was named All-American in late November of that year, although it took his own school more than three decades to pay him the same tribute.

In the meantime, Maddox headed north following his senior season at UGA to Calhoun High School.  In his lone season as head coach of the football team, he guided the school to a 7-1-1 record in 1932.  Red would later serve in the U.S. Army during World War II.  As part of General Patton's Third Army, he was killed in action during the Normandy Invasion.  Survived by his widow Mildred and daughter Patricia, Maddox was returned for burial in 1948 to Tampa, FL. 

It would take another 14 years after being buried, and only because of the alertness of Dan Magill, Maddox would finally be recognized for the football honor he had earned 32 years before.

After the Georgia game errors from the early 1900s I discovered, and the record keeping of Maddox in 1930, apparently, the school would continue to exhibit that it was indeed human.  In 1960, a player wasn't slighted an All-American honor, but was given credit for more than he actually deserved.

One giveth, the other taketh away...

You see, for more than 50 years now, Fran Tarkenton has been listed as an Associated Press first-team All-American from his senior season.  In reality, the great Georgia quarterback was recognized as a second-team All-American by the AP that year and no known selector actually chose him as a first teamer (and, according to the College Football Hall of Fame, into which Tarkenton was elected in 1987, its first criterion to be eligible is "First and foremost, a player must have received major first team All-America recognition."  But like the loss in 1900 to NC State, we won't discuss that particular discovery either.).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this!! "Red" Maddox is my mom's uncle and I have always felt some kind of connection to him even though I never met him. I always enjoy finding new information on him and I think my mother will be thrilled to hear about him earning All-American status, we are major college football fans in our family. She was just telling me today how she remembers being at the train station when she was a kid and watching him leave in his military uniform, it was the last time she ever saw him.