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September 28, 2012

A Memorable Moment of Exuberation...

...for some in the Bulldog Nation was an instance of embarrassment for others, but a feeling of "Finally!" for all.  Georgia snapping Tennessee's nine-game winning streak a dozen years ago did have some fans calling out their own to act like they've been there before
Nevertheless, in the spirit of a losing-isn't-an-option game versus the Vols in Sanford Stadium, presented is the fourth (by my count) and likely final time Dawg fans have torn down goal posts following a victory, and the instant the Georgia-Tennessee series was turned around in the right direction:

September 25, 2012

Three Pioneers & an Artful Dodger (VIDEO)

The Dogs got the best of Tennessee and its "Artful Dodger" in '73, 
but a loss to the Vols the year before is just as noteworthy.    
Georgia's 35-31 victory in 1973 over Tennessee in Knoxville is rather memorable.  The win by the Bulldogs, who entered as an 11-point underdog, is one of the bigger upsets in the modern era of UGA football.  The game-winning touchdown quarterback Andy Johnson's 8-yard touchdown rush with just over a minute remaining after grabbing a bounced fumble by teammate Glynn Harrison is considered one of the greatest plays in Bulldog history, and radio calls by the legendary Larry Munson.
However, the meeting between the two teams just a season before and 40 years ago  ironically, a 14-0 loss by Georgia at home is actually more historic of a moment in Bulldog lore.
Building upon the recognition of this year marking the 40th anniversary of the first appearances by African-American varsity football players at UGA, the 1972 Georgia-Tennessee game in Sanford Stadium is a notable footnote during the era of integration in southern college football.
The Volunteers were led by sophomore quarterback Condredge Holloway, or "The Artful Dodger," who had recently become the first African-American quarterback to start for an SEC school earlier that year.  He and his Tennessee teammates would be facing a newly-integrated Bulldog varsity team, which featured three black players all sophomores of the original "Five Pioneers."
For the 1972 season, Larry West was a co-regular at the right cornerback position and, two weeks prior to the Tennessee contest, had returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown against Vanderbilt.  Versatile tailback-wingback Horace King would finish the year ranking fourth on the squad in rushing, fourth in scoring, third in receiving, and second in kickoff returns.  For most of the season, Chuck Kinnebrew was a worthy reserve at the defensive guard position.
Alas, against the Volunteers that season, few Bulldogs were very worthy in a game that exhibited two Holloway scoring passes both in the second quarter –  as the historical contest's lone touchdowns.
For a memorable moment in Georgia football history, I recommend watching highlights from the Bulldogs' win over the Vols in 1973.  However, the Georgia-Tennessee game from exactly four decades ago (despite West having to run down a Vol ballcarrier, King mishandling a kickoff the one time in the game he touches the ball, or Kinnebrew merely making a tackle, all while The Artful Dodger defeats our Bulldogs), is a moment in the annals of Bulldog football that is as historical as they come:

September 21, 2012

Certain Things Discontinued, Simply Put, Should Be Reestablished

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently met with a Bulldog player from the mid-1970s.  This player is roughly a 12-hour drive away from Athens and has ventured back into the area only about five or six times since graduating in 1977.  Therefore, it was very important for him to witness something while he was visiting he had not seen in over 36 years, particularly since he had no idea when he'd return to Georgia. 
"When I come down, I must visit the grave of my old buddy, Hugh Hendrix," he told me back in July.   
So, there we were last Tuesday: the player, two of Hugh's friends from his hometown of Decatur, and me, traveling to Carrollton to visit Hugh's parents, Harvey at age 85, Carolyn at 77, and then onto his grave site located only a few miles from the family home.
Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with Hugh Hendrix, it certainly comes to no surprise; it has been about four decades since the defensive-turned-offensive lineman arrived at UGA to attend school and play football.  Regardless, let me give you a little insight into one of the most admirable individuals to ever don the red and black, while attempting to explain how he touched so many lives.
Hugh developed from a sophomore at Shamrock High, who couldn't even make the varsity team, to a first-team AA All-State lineman as a senior in 1972.  Harvey told me he wanted his son to be an accountant and to attend college at Rice or Vanderbilt, each offering a football scholarship, or one of the several Ivy League schools that came calling.  However, Hugh wanted to go to UGA to better his chances of eventually playing pro ball, plus, as Hendrix declared to his dad when deciding to be a Bulldog, he could "get a good education at Georgia just as well."
Midway through the 1975 season, Hugh stepped in for injured guard Joel "Cowboy" Parrish, who would be recognized as an All-American and the best lineman in the conference the following year, and filled in admirably as Georgia would go undefeated the rest of the regular season.  Entering his senior season of 1976, Hugh was slated to start at the Bulldogs' right guard position, replacing another All-American, Randy Johnson.
In early July of 1976, Hugh started to come down with flu-like symptoms.  Less than a week later, the kind-hearted, most likable player on the team mysteriously passed away, dying from an acute blood infection caused by leptospirosis a disease transmitted from animals to people.  Exactly how Hugh contracted leptospirosis, no one knew.  Even to this day, Carolyn has "no clue," as she stated, or was ever told how her only child got the rarely fatal disease.
After meeting with the Hendrix family, I began looking on a shelf in the family room at a football, which originally had been used in Georgia's season opener of 1976.  The ball had been dedicated in Hugh's honor and then given to the parents after a 36-24 comeback victory over California.  Suddenly, Carolyn walked in front of me carrying a plaque-like award and asked, "Do you know if the team still gives this out?  It's an award named after our Hugh."   
Although I had never seen it before, I knew immediately what I was looking at – the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award, given to the Bulldog who most "strains his potential."  Being the UGA football history nerd I am, I also knew the plaque hadn't been awarded in at least 10 to 15 years.  However, taken aback and at a loss for words, I didn't have the heart to tell the mother the total truth and instead mumbled a response of "I'm not sure..."
Have you ever got a feeling that you must take a stand for something a belief of yours that evidently few others, if any, may have felt at the time even if your stance might be a bit unconventional?
When it comes to Georgia football, I suspect it's a similar feeling T. Kyle King had when beginning his campaign several years ago of rightfully inducting Erk Russell into the College Football Hall of Fame.  It's a feeling I had when I visited Hugh Hendrix' grave in Carrollton.  I had felt somewhat cowardly for not being totally upfront with a dead boy's mother, and a little ashamed of the football program I loved for discontinuing an award which stood for so much, but through it all, I was suddenly driven to take a seemingly somewhat unconventional stance my attempt to reestablish the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award.

I've since uncovered some information: Hugh's award was handed out annually for 14 seasons, curiously stopped for two years, and then awarded for the final time in 1992.  Some of the recipients are considered amongst the greatest Bulldogs of all time: Joe Tereshinski, Jim Griffith, Tommy Thurson, Warren Gray, Donald Chumley, and Kim Stephens on three occasions.
I emailed a friend in the athletic office, who has been around the program for a long while, and asked if he knew why the award was stopped.  He responded that he wasn't quite sure but believes it was one of the many awards over the last 20 years to be discontinued and fall along the wayside.  Indeed, there were at least a half-dozen team awards handed out annually as late as the 1990s that are no longer given.  My suspicion is that if an award didn't have money and/or strong support backing it, the honor was simply dropped.  In regard to reestablishing Hugh's award, I don't have much money but I plan on doing something about the support aspect. 
I'll begin with baby steps.  I plan on writing Greg McGarity, Coach Richt, probably Coach Dooley, maybe Michael Adams if I can stand it, and perhaps I'll even send a letter to Ray Goff for the heck of it.  Ironically, after Hendrix opened holes for Goff while he quarterbacked Georgia's Veer in 1974-1975, Hugh's award was discontinued during the head coach's era.  And, by all means, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment to this post or contact me.  
In the game program of the '76 Georgia-Cal game, a guest editorial is written by then-team chaplain Rev. Claude McBride.  The editorial includes remarks McBride overheard by a senior starter following a tough preseason practice leading up to the season opener:
Man, it's hot out there.  They're really working us.  I about passed out...felt my legs going...then I thought about Hugh!  When I remembered him, I forgot about my complaint...I just grabbed my second wind...sucked it in...and kept at it. 
In a season dedicated to Hugh, the Bulldogs constantly sucked it in and kept at it.  Four of Georgia's 10 wins en route to an SEC title were second-half comeback victories, while remarkably seven of 11 regular-season opponents were held scoreless the entire second half. 
Hugh Hendrix touched many people in life, just after his passing, and continues to do so to this day, including yours truly when I visited his parents and later stood over his grave last week.  If there ever was a Bulldog player who deserved a team award in his honor for being the ultimate teammate and one who strained his potential, it is undoubtedly Hugh.  The football program honored him before; it should do so again!
In closing, go Dawgs and beat Vandy!  I'm off... I've got some letters to write.

September 14, 2012

"Go You Hairless 'Dogs" revisited

Even "black dudes" Ronnie Swoopes (front), James
Moreen, Curtis Williams, Larry Razor (center L-R),
and Bob Hope (back) were "doing it."
During this week, I visited with a former Georgia football player, who is in town for the 1972 team reunion being held today at the Athens Country Club.  This ex-Bulldog  a senior on the 1976 SEC championship squad – reiterated that the death of teammate Hugh Hendrix during the summer of '76 undoubtedly united the team and aided in clinching the conference title that year. 
In addition, he declared, "when many of us shaved our heads, that certainly helped in unifying the team, as well."
The account of the bald Bulldogs from yesteryear is a good history lesson for a program whose team unity has been called into question a time or two (...or three) over the last three or four seasons.  However, in the wake of Georgia's three-touchdown win over Missouri last Saturday  a statement victory when Georgia outlasted the Tigers down the stretch in a true team effort  today's Bulldogs may finally be reminiscent of Erk Russell's "big TEAM, little me" philosophy.
Speaking of the greatest defensive coordinator in the history of college football...
When the Bulldogs took to the practice field nine days prior to their season opener versus 15th-ranked Cal in 1976, more than 20 players had completely shaved their heads, while the normally bald Russell jokingly sported a wig.  It appeared a good portion of the team had emulated the acclaimed assistant, or did "just one of those crazy things you sometimes do in college," said senior quarterback Ray Goff.
But how did the hairy Dogs become hairless?  Personally, I've heard several different renditions over the years, while a number of different players have taken the credit for beginning the slick-headed fashion.  Even one particular assistant coach, and not Russell, once told me that he was the one that started the trend.  Nonetheless, and not surprisingly, it's actually a couple of linemen that should receive the full recognition.
Apparently, senior center Ken Helms had just received a $6 haircut from an Athens barber, and ironically a hair dryer from his father, who did not approve of his son's new hairdo.  Senior tackle Mike "Moonpie" Wilson also did not like his teammate's hair style, so Helms promptly shaved it all off.  Upon a dare from Helms, Wilson quickly did the same to his hair.  
Within hours of the first shavings, quarterback Goff added that even "the black dudes are doing it now," according to the article "Go You Hairless 'Dogs" in the 9/3/76 edition of the Athens Banner-Herald.  By the season-opening game against the Golden Bears, the number of bald Bulldogs had reached about 30, including 14 starters.       
Talk about team unity.
"You can tell which ones of us are from South Georgia," Goff humorously stated.  "Our heads ain't smooth like those city slickers from Atlanta.  We got scars all over our heads."
The Bulldogs -- some of which remained bald
-- arrive in New Orleans for the '77 Sugar
Bowl, including Vince Dooley with a toupee.

By the end of a 10-1 and SEC championship regular season, even more players and assistants had took to the shears, some of them more than once.  For others that had once been scalped, there was no longer evidence of such as all of their locks had grown back over the course of more than three months.  As for the head Bulldog of them all, Vince Dooley, he shocked a crowd of a few hundred in mid-December at a coronation party to celebrate the SEC title at Poss' Lakeview in Athens.  While speaking, the head coach suddenly jerked off a wig to expose a bald head, exclaiming that he too had become one of the many clean-shaven Dogs.
Just before the Cal game back in September, it seems Dooley had pledged to his team that if it captured the SEC championship and then defeated Georgia Tech, he would "shave his entire body," according to a newspaper report. 
Entire body?  As mentioned, Dooley would indeed become bald on top, but a hairless Dog all over? 

Now if true, such a shaving stunt was really, as they say, taking one for the team...  

September 6, 2012

Give the Guy Some Rest...

There's some talk regarding Todd Gurley's role increasing significantly in Georgia's backfield this Saturday at Missouri.  I even heard a couple of guys in the media both declare that the freshman should get at least 20 carries against the Tigers. 
Hearing the chatter reminded me of another Bulldog true freshman who, exactly 32 years ago today, also appeared on the road at night in front of a hostile SEC crowd and carried the load, so to speak.  It's hard to believe that it has been that long ago since the "Goal Line Stalker" made his debut in front of 95,288 in Knoxville...
It's also difficult to comprehend conservative Coach Vince Dooley calling for an 18-year-old true freshman to tote the ball 24 times (for 84 hard-earned yards and two spectacular touchdowns), and, remarkably, every one of the carries came in the final 2½ quarters of the contest!  As the legendary Larry Munson insisted following Herschel's second touchdown, "give the guy some rest!"
Simply put, Herschel was just that special and different from any ordinary freshman, and it was undoubtedly evident the first time he donned the silver, um, red britches.  You can see for yourself...