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May 8, 2013

Big TEAM, Little trippi

Charley recently with his Rose
Bowl Player of the Game Award
I was catching up on some reading when I discovered an article that appeared in USA Today just prior to the NFL Draft on Charley Trippi. Charley, the oldest living No. 1 pick, is apparently not interested in the modern-day draft, where "big money" has made the annual event less interesting to the living legend. And, that makes perfect sense to me.
Not long before Charley's interview with USA Today, I happened to interview him at his home for my current book project. His "game of his life" while at Georgia was the 9-0 blanking of UCLA in the 1943 Rose Bowl.
Charley revealed very little to me regarding his individual play against the Bruins—a game MVP performance that included 130 rushing yards on 27 carries, nearly 100 passing yards, an interception on defense, and a 49.5-yard punting average by the sophomore halfback. I had to pry any individual game details out of him. Instead, Charley wanted to discuss the team's eye-opening trip to Pasadena and nearby Hollywood, and most importantly, the tribute the Bulldogs gave during the game to the sport's best player that season.
Prior to the interview, I was aware that Charley's extraordinary Rose Bowl performance did not include him scoring. The game's lone touchdown resulted on a short run by Heisman-winning Frank Sinkwich, who was limited during the game because of injuries. Playing on two injured ankles, Sinkwich threw two interceptions, lost a fumble, and gained only 20 rushing yards on 10 carries. Nevertheless, what would be his final carry as a Bulldog was the ultimate way to end a career, and the ultimate tribute a team could give its wounded leader.
Coach Wally Butts was big on scrimmaging, so much so he made the team scrimmage during its trip by train to California. "[Butts] was not about to go two or three days without a practice," Charley informed me. "We stopped, scrimmaged, got back on the train to spend the night, and then went on to California." Upon arrival, the Bulldogs began scrimmaging again and quite often, while rather intensely.

"After a scrimmage in California, Coach Butts approached me and said that Frank had been injured; one ankle was hurt rather badly while the other was swollen," Charley said. "Butts told me that Frank would be limited and I would 'have to go all the way'--carry the load of the team's carries and maybe play the entire game." However, the head coach, his sophomore sensation, and the rest of the team's offense (minus Sinkwich) agreed that if the team ever got close to UCLA's goal line, even if it was on multiple occasions, the injured Sinkwich would be handed the ball for an opportunity to score a touchdown.
On the final play of the third quarter during a scoreless tie, Sinkwich was given his first chance from the opponent's one-yard line, but lost a fumble recovered by UCLA's Albert Izmirian. In an era when teams often punted prior to facing fourth down, the Bruins punted on the very next play and had it blocked out of the end zone, scoring a safety for Georgia. After a couple of changes of possessions, the Bulldogs began a drive from UCLA's 25-yard line after an interception by Clyde Ehrhardt.
"Following one play, Frank got up hobbling so badly that we tried to send him to the sideline, but he refused to leave the game," Trippi said of Georgia's touchdown drive. "On the next play, he was given the ball, but then handed it to me on a reverse for a gain of about six or seven yards. Finally, facing second down and goal from the one-yard line, we called timeout."
For what Charley believes was the only play he missed the entire game offensively or defensively, he went to the sideline as Sinkwich was inserted at left halfback. Sinkwich was then given another chance, running at right tackle before being spun sideways by a Bruin defender. He just got over the goal line, scoring the game’s only touchdown with about seven-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Ehrhardt's interception, Sinkwich's touchdown, and fans tear down the goal posts following Georgia's 9-0 victory:

Charley concluded his memory of the Rose Bowl with the following: "We wanted to pay tribute to Frank for the great career he had at Georgia and he delivered by scoring a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.  In the sport’s greatest game, what a way for Frank Sinkwich to complete his college career!"
Remember, Charley was asked to describe the game of his life...
I've known Charley for about five or six years and of all former Georgia players, I've probably interviewed him more than any other.  I can honestly say he is one of the most gracious and selfless people I know.  Reading that the Bulldog great has no interest in an annual showcase filled with glitz, instant millionaires, and individualism makes perfect sense to me. 
The ultimate team player, who was part of perhaps the ultimate tribute to a teammate in UGA football history, continues to believe in a "Big team, Little me" approach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh for the days when players played the game as truly a college sport rather than for the primary purpose of trying to go to the NFL - thank you Mr. Trippi for making us all proud of our school - UGA Grad 1970, 1974 - btw all the old film clips are "priceless"