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December 18, 2012

Christmas Came Early

Hugh at Georgia's Picture Day in 1974
A few months ago, I posted a piece on my moving and unforgettable visit with the parents of Georgia football player Hugh Hendrix.
As I've indicated a few times here before, Hugh was an intelligent, straight-laced individual and the "most likable player on the team," who was projected to start at offensive guard in 1976 as a senior after starting the latter half of the 1975 season.  Two months prior to the season opener, Hugh passed away from a rare blood infection within a week of merely exhibiting flu-like symptoms.  To this day, the actual cause of his fatal infection is a medical mystery.
In memory of Hugh, the team dedicated its '76 season to their fallen teammate.  A decal Hugh's jersey No. 64 was placed on the Bulldogs' helmets; the first time Georgia ever featured a helmet sticker in honor of someone or something.  Inspired by Hugh, the Bulldogs would go on to capture an SEC championship.
In short, I visited the home of Harvey and Carolyn Hendrix back in September along with a teammate of Hugh's at Georgia and a couple of his childhood friends.  During the visit, Carolyn asked me if I knew whether or not the UGA football program still gave out her son's award the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award, which was annually awarded to the Bulldog player who "most strained his potential."

Come to find out, Hugh's award was given from 1976 through 1989, resumed for one year in 1992, and then was discontinued for reasons unknown.  I suddenly felt compelled to begin a pursuit to reestablish what had been discontinued, and said then:
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!
Within 15 minutes of my posting three months ago, I received an email from an Athletic Board member with a suggestion on how I could go about getting the award reestablished.  Within 48 hours of the post, I had received over 30 emails of kind words, advice, and even a few from individuals wanting to donate money to the cause.

I was truly taken aback by the amount of support from the readers of this blog.

I decided that the best route to take was to first send a letter to Greg McGarity, and then go from there.  Only two days after mailing my letter, I received a response from the AD, indicating that the athletic department was going to look into why the award was discontinued and they'd be in touch with me.

Late last week, I received an email from another prominent member of the athletic department.  After just 10 weeks since my email from McGarity, I was thrilled to read: "We are going to reestablish Hugh’s award. We are in the process of getting this done."

I soon contacted Harvey and Carolyn with the good news.  I had not previously communicated with them the efforts to reestablish the award, and didn't want them to be totally taken off guard if ever contacted by the athletic department.

Hugh with teammates Dave Christianson (No. 81),
Bubba Wilson (No. 30), and Steve Davis (No. 14) --
Photos courtesy of Hugh's friends Janice Henck & Kathy Wicks Kelley
Hugh's parents were extremely happy and appreciative that the UGA football program would continue to remember their son 36 years after his death.  "Tell everyone involved 'thank you so much' from the two of us," Carolyn said to me.  "We have been given an early Christmas gift!"
I concur.  With the news from the athletic department, my household received an early Christmas gift, as well.

But, why was the award discontinued to begin with?  Besides "what can I do to help?" it was the question most asked in the emails I received.
I don't know why the award was interrupted 20 years ago, and really don't care.  Perhaps the current regime in the athletic department doesn't even know the reason.  I can only speculate that unfortunately Hugh's award was grouped with others not associated with financial backing or a scholarship back in the early-90s, and was dropped.
Nevertheless, it appears what was once mysteriously interrupted will be rightfully continued.  Therefore, the question that should be asked regarding the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award is not why, but who...
Who amongst the current edition of Bulldogs is worthy enough to receive such an honor?


rugbydawg79 said...

Connor Norman ?

Matt R said...

Hugh was a great friend, and a tried and true team mate. As a QB, he was especially important to my health. I love the man and am so glad to see that this award honoring him, and an athlete each year that displays Hugh's kind of courage and commitment to the game and his team mates, is being reinstated.

Way to go Patrick.

Matt Robinson
'73 - '77

Anonymous said...

Michael Bennett!

Anonymous said...

Richard Samuel

Unknown said...

Great job Patrick...just viewed your site for the first time and read about Hugh Hendrix and your work.
Van S. Norris '74