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June 24, 2014

All Joking Aside, Georgia-Clemson is Just 67 Days Away...

Only 67 days until Georgia tangles with
Clemson...  In '67, it was Lawrence racing
past the Tigers with this tumbling, tie-
breaking and game-winning touchdown.
I grew up in a time when there was no Georgia football opponent perhaps more despised by the Bulldog Nation than Clemson.  And, such hate likely spawned a number of memorable jokes I can still recall 30 years later about "Auburn with a lake," as the late, great Lewis Grizzard labeled our loathed foe 75 miles to the northeast.
Admittedly, the jokes resulted because maybe we had a case of sour grapes in 1977 after the Tigers beat the Bulldogs in Athens for the first time in 63 years, or beginning with Georgia's loss in Death Valley in 1981the only regular-season defeat suffered by the Bulldogs over the course of four entire years.  Whatever the reason for the taunting and whenever it began, "Clemmons College" simply seemed quite inferior to the reputable University of Georgia, at least it did to me at the time.
Perhaps I was young or ignorantprobably both.  However, in my defense, when a child hears that someone, namely Grizzard, witnessing protesting farmers stage a tractorcade at a state Capitol, hadn't seen that many tractors since the last time Clemson played in Athens, or Craig Hertwig in 1982 declare, "Clemson ain’t nothing but an imitation. ... I even hear they’re going to put up imitation grass in the stadium up there so the homecoming queen won’t graze on it," the belief that Clemson is all-around inadequate, although apparently suggested in jest, can be fixed in the mind of the young perceiver.
Since then, there have obviously been even more Clemson jokes, like Grizzard's tale of the foolish former Tiger football player-turned-pessimistic-paratrooper, but I've grown wiser as I've gotten older.  From what I understand, Clemson is actually a rather reputable university; plus, I recognize that the three people I personally know that graduated from the school are all smarter than me.  Any thoughts of Clemson having inferior academic standards disappeared a long time ago, or had they?
I was on Clemson's campus not too long ago, interviewing a school historian for a magazine article I was writing.  We soon got on the subject of the Bulldogs-Tigers football rivalry.  I brought up the fact that it hadn't really been much of a rivalry until the late 1970s (I swear, I was just making conversation.).  He promptly countered with a story from amidst all those Clemson setbacks to the Dogs.  He laughed as he spoke of the 1967 meeting in Death Valley, and the winning touchdown scored by a South Carolina native that couldn't get into Clemson because of his entrance exams, so he went to UGA, at least that's what Sports Illustrated said.  
The historian must have seen the disbelief on my face that a Bulldog couldn't actually academically qualify at "Clempson." 
"You never heard that story?" he asked me.  "I thought you're supposed to know your Georgia football.  You should go look the article up."  So, I did.
Writer Joe Jares of Sports Illustrated was indeed on hand for the '67 game.  He reported the important stuff: the favored Bulldogs led 17-3, but the Tigers stormed back to tie it.  A few minutes into the final quarter, Kent Lawrence, who ironically hailed from nearby Central, SC, tallied the game-winning touchdown from 14 yards out.  The "local-boy-makes-good" Lawrence, according to Sports Illustrated, sailed into the end zone literally upside down for the score.
However, buried in the article is the remark that "some folks in Pickens County say Kent sprinted down to Georgia because his college entrance-exam figures were not up to ACC standards," and mentions the widely-publicized nickname Clemson head coach Frank Howard had at the time for the SEC because of the conference's supposedly lower standards: the "Knucklehead League."
Well, as they say, I guess you do learn something new everyday.  I would have never guessed that Clemson, of all schools, could make up for its much inferior football program of the time by hanging its hat on lofty academic standards.  So, how did the apparent then-Harvard of the South become the butt of jokes just 10 to 15 years later?
For what it's worth, the Bulldog who wasn't up to ACC standards, he wound up doing just fine.  Lawrence would eventually serve as chief of the Clarke County Police Department and later a prosecutor.  He recently retired from his post as Clarke County State Court Chief Judge  after more than a quarter-century of serving on the bench. 

As far as the originator of the term the "Knucklehead League," Howard would retire from coaching just a couple years following the '67 game as one of the most legendary college coaches in southern football history.  The late tobacco-chewing, quick-witted coach is still considered one of the most entertaining and unique figures in the history of the sport (and maybe one day I'll have enough courage to post the story his son told me involving Howard, an opposing coach, General Douglas MacArthur, and a glass or urine).  However, and with all due respect to the revered Howard, he somewhat exhibited what can be common of some intellectuals: although he could dish out the joking, perhaps he couldn't take it all too well.

You see, within days of the '67 Georgia-Clemson contest, Howard and his southern drawl was quoted, sort of, from the head coach's broadcast of "The Frank Howard Show"  by a writer from The Athens Daily News.

"I'll jest tell you, Verner (Verner Tate, the TV station's sports director), that there Georgie team is as gud as any you kin find anywhar. ... And they got these heah big ole' tackles, one by the name of Stan-fill and anuddin' by the name of Chandler.  You ain't goin find none better'n them two...," was just a small sampling of the writer's entertaining portrayal of Howard.  However, the Clemson coach was not amused.

Howard soon threatened to turn the matter over to his attorney for possible legal action against the newspaper.  On the other hand, the writernone other than Lewis Grizzardmeant no disrespect and was only "attempting to depict [Howard's] colorful image," while demonstrating that finding humor in Clemson, its players, coaches, and fans, occurred long before the jokes about "Auburn with a lake" became routine.

June 20, 2014

Although Unofficial, A Distinguished Father-Son Duo

After more than 70 years, pictured Vason 
McWhorter's lettering in 1930 should be
rewriting the UGA record books. 
Several years ago, UGA released a seemingly "official" listing of father and son groups to have played football for the Bulldogs.  Based on the list, I posted at my "UGA Football" page on Father's Day information on Georgia's original father-son pair, which actually happened to be a Bulldog family trio: grandfather Morton Hodgson (lettered in 1906), son Hutch (1933), and grandson Pat (1963-65).
As I indicated then, Morton first became affiliated with UGA as a child as the baseball team's mascot.  He was a four-sport star for the Red and Black, including in football in 1906 and 1908 (although he lettered in just the former season).  According to UGA, it was against Auburn in 1906the initial season forward passing was allowedthat Hodgson recorded the program's first interception.
Morton's son, Hutch, was also a standout swimmer for Georgia.  Grandson, Pat, led the SEC in receiving in 1963 as a sophomore, and is best known for his role in the famous flea-flicker touchdown which defeated Alabama in 1965.
Within a day or two of my Father's Day Facebook post, I carefully looked at UGA's fathers-sons listing, and was soon taken aback.  Nowhere listed was the father-sons trio I blogged about several months ago; missing were the Kimseysthe father-son pair which includes UGA football's oldest living letterman; and where were Nate and Tony Taylor, who both ended their Bulldog careers amongst the school's top-20 tacklers of all time?

As I've said before, it takes a special individual to strap on the red helmet, don the silver britches, and represent one of the greatest traditions in college footballa dream that so many of us have had, but so few have actually fulfilled.  And, not every one of those special individuals earn a letter, and for a father and son to both letter as Bulldog football players is obviously rather noteworthy; therefore, to leave a pair off the list is, in my opinion, unacceptable.
I spent part of this past week researching and creating the unofficial "Bulldog Fathers and Sons" listing arranged below.  The 32 groups, which only include lettering football players, are divided into four family alignments and listed in order according to when the group became a father-son pair.  If you notice any error or omission, please comment or email me at patrick@patrickgarbin.com. 
Joe Tereshinski, Sr. (1942, 1945-46)Joe Tereshinski, Jr. (1974-76) and Wally Tereshinski (1976-77)Joe Tereshinski, III (2004-06) 
Morton Hodgson (1906)Hutch Hodgson (1933)Pat Hodgson (1963-65)
Forrest "Spec" Towns (1936-37)Bobby Towns (1957-59)Kirby Towns (2000, 2002-03)
John McKnight (1933-35)David McKnight (1966, 1968-69) and Larry McKnight (1970-71)
Vason McWhorter, Jr. (1903)Vason McWhorter, III (1930-32)
Ivy "Chick" Shiver, Jr. (1926-27)Ivy "Chick" Shiver, III (1949-50)
James Harper (1919-20)Jimmy Harper (1952-55)
Don Leebern, Sr. (1936)Don Leebern, Jr. (1957-59)
Tommy Paris, Sr. (1929)Tommy Paris, Jr. (1958-60)
Oliver Hunnicutt (1937-39)Pat Hunnicutt (1962-64)
Porter Payne (1946-49)Billy Payne (1966-68)
Jim Cavan (1936-37)Mike Cavan (1968-70)
Tom Nash, Sr. (1925-27)Tom Nash, Jr. (1969-71)
Cliff Kimsey (1939-41)Bucky Kimsey (1969)
Bob Poss (1942)Bobby Poss, Jr. (1969-71)
Floyd Reid (1945-49)Andy Reid (1973-75)
Richard Raber (1949-51)Mike Raber (1975-76)
Billy Henderson (1946-49)Johnny Henderson (1976-77)
Knox Culpepper (1954-56)W. Knox Culpepper (1981-84)
Langdale Williams (1959-61)Todd Williams (1982-84, '86)
Marion Campbell (1949-51)Scott Campbell (1983)
Tommy Lewis (1957-59)Tommy Lewis (1983)
Leroy Dukes (1962-64)David Dukes (1984-87)
Glenn Creech (1964-65)Glenn Creech (1986)
John Kasay, Sr. (1965-66)John Kasay, Jr. (1987-90)
Ray Rissmiller (1962-64)Scott Rissmiller (1990-92)
Steve Greer (1967-69)Michael Greer (1997-99)
Curtis McGill (1967-69)Curt McGill (2000-01)
Willie McClendon (1976-78)Bryan McClendon (2002-05)
Nate Taylor (1979-82)Tony Taylor (2002-03, 2005-06)
Kevin Butler (1981-84)Drew Butler (2009-11)
Mitch Frix (1981-82)Ty Frix (2009-12)
After compiling the list, I noticed another important omission besides the aforementioned: Morton and Hutch Hodgson were not the original Bulldog father-son pair as indicated by UGA football recordsrather, a couple of Vason McWhorters should actually hold the distinction. 

There are seven McWhortersall relatedwho have lettered at Georgia, including most notably the legendary Bob McWhorter and most recently Mac McWhorter, a standout lineman for the Bulldogs in the early '70s and a recent retiree after a 40-year football coaching career.  However, of all the McWhorters to have played for the Bulldogs, there is just one father-son pair: Vason, Jr., who started games at center and right halfback for Georgia in 1903, and Vason, III, who was a standout center in the early '30s and captain of the Bulldogs' 1932 team.  Son Vason's lettering in 1930 came two years prior to Hutch Hodgson's, resulting in him and his father being the initial Bulldog father-son pair originating in 1903, rather than Morton and Hutch Hodgson in 1906.

As a side note, there must have been something in the water when UGA football records were being kept back in 1906.  Besides Hodgson's "official" father-son origination, there's the omitted victory over Dahlonega that season that should be an official victory.  Plus, as far as Morton Hodgson's interception against Auburn in 1906, which is regarded as the program's first pass interception...

Hodgson's feat has been mentioned in the annals of UGA football history, including by yours truly (after seeing it published multiple times).  However, I decided to take a careful look at his apparent achievement after inspecting the Bulldog fathers and sons.  I was taken aback for a second time.  You see, according to detailed accounts from the 1906 Georgia-Auburn game from three different newspapers, no interception by any player ever resulted in the contest.  Therefore, and with all due respect to the acclaimed Morton Hodgson, his official defensive accomplishment, like his father-son origination, should likely be more so an "unofficial" one.

June 17, 2014

When Dawgs Need a House to Stay at...

Just returning from a family vacation, it's been a while since I last posted, but let me remind you guys of my "UGA Football" Facebook page.  There, I try to post something somewhat informative at least four or five times a week.  Notably, its "LIKE" total has gone from 200-something less than two months ago to recently reaching the 1,500 LIKE mark.  Thanks for everyone's interest.
While on vacation, this blog began a partnership with a new advertiser, Athens Football Rentals (right).  Please visit their site to behold the solution to what many of us have encountered: wanting to attend a Bulldogs game in Athens but had no doghouse to stay at.  They have great rates for quality rentals within walking distance of Sanford Stadium.  Booking has already begun for the Clemson game.  Also, checkout their partner site, University Football Rentals, for when the Dawgs play on the road.
For when the Dawgs play at home, don't get left at your home simply because you have no place to stay in Athens, or worse--left to sleep in a cramp car with four other guys, like yours truly following the '98 Tennessee game.  But, that story is perhaps worthy of another post for another time...

June 7, 2014

This Program Needs Another “Hit Man”

Image of the Hit Man's card from the 
Anti-Orange Page's Gallery
I recall around this time 25 years ago, or entering the 1989 football season, when I was handed by my father the first few of the many packs of the "Georgia's Finest" football cards I'd collect.  For those of you old enough, do you remember those?  I'll never forget opening what may have been my very first pack, thumbing through Georgia's best football players, only then coming across an individual I had barely heard of before (and at 14 years old, I knew my UGA football history pretty well back then too)—flanker Butch Box. 

The "Finest" cards had the players' yearly statistics on the back, and when I flipped Box's card over and observed some rather meager receiving statistics, I remember asking my dad something on the order of "how can a guy with six catches and just one touchdown for his entire career be one of 'Georgia's Finest'?  Who is this guy?"
That's when this admittedly football stat geek was taught for the first time in his life that often in sports, statistics don't tell the whole story.  And, when it came to the tough-as-nails Butch Box, arguably the greatest special teams coverage man in the history of UGA football, the saying couldn't be more true.  
Before arriving at UGA, Box had been a blue-chip wide receiver—one of the greatest in the annals of Alabama high school football.  In fact, his 51 career touchdown receptions from 1970 to 1972 at Tarrant High School, located just North of Birmingham, was an Alabama state record until the late 1990s, and still remains tied for the third-most ahead of notables Ozzie Newsome (49) and Julio Jones (43).
At Georgia in 1973, Box actually played back when you had to be extra special to see the field as a mere true freshman on head coach Vince Dooley's varsity squad.  Box returned kicks, held on placekicks, played a little at wide receiver, and was eventually even tried out at defensive back.  Returning a kickoff in the Tennessee game, Box broke his leg, but Dooley still allowed him to travel with the team for the rest of the season, including to the Peach Bowl in win over Maryland.  By season's end, Box had earned a letter.  He was one of just three, along with placekicker Allan Leavitt and receiver Gene Washington, to eventually become the first Georgia players to earn varsity letters in four seasons (1973-74-75-76) after freshmen became eligible to play college football in 1972. 
In the season opener of 1974 against Oregon State, Box scored his aforementioned lone touchdown—a 28-yard scoring reception on a halfback pass from Horace King.  However, standing at just 5-foot-9, weighing 170-something pounds, and with the Bulldogs loaded in depth at wide receiver, where Box could be utilized was the question.  The answer came in his uncanny ability on special teams coverage, especially on kickoffs.

"Coach [Erk] Russell was in charge of the kickoff coverage team, and he’d let me lineup anywhere," Box informed me this past week from his home in Birmingham.  "When Allan Leavitt was about to kickoff, I’d lineup anywhere—far left, far right, in the middle, wherever. ... We had a bunch of good guys on special teams then.  We weren't all that big, but we were fast and always fired up."
As this video of Box on a couple of kickoffs against Vanderbilt in 1975 demonstrates, he was indeed fast, routinely beating all his teammates down the field on coverage: 
"I don’t know if I was necessarily better than anyone else, I just hustled down there full speed and always wanted to hit somebody," Box responded after being asked how he stood out from everybody on coverage.  "Even when Allan would kick it out of the end zone or a guy would call fair catch on a punt, I'd just hit the closest guy to me.  Back then, you could do that.  Nowadays, you'd get penalized.  Even on offense (playing wide receiver), we ran the ball a lot, so often a defender was just standing there [as the play was ending] and I’d come up to him and jack ‘em!"

By his later years at Georgia, Box had become such a nuisance for opposing teams on kick coverage, he started to actually get double teamed at times (yes, on special teams!).  "But, that left one of our men not blocked, so they could make the tackle," he added.

This is according to a fellow wide receiver and coverage man of the time for the Bulldogs, Steve Davis.  You'll notice Davis (No. 80) on the first clip of the video, assisting Box with the tackle:

Butch was the best special teams player at Georgia the entire time I was there, and ever since from what I've seen.  He was always the first guy down the field on kickoff coverage even though not the fastest player.  He had no regard for his body, throwing himself into harms way, and was a great tackler.  Butch just had a knack like no other when it came to special teams play.

Although he wouldn't tell you so, Box was a fan favorite while at Georgia, as well, and was given a number of nicknames by the Bulldog Nation and the media, including the one mentioned on the back of his "Finest" card—the "Hit Man."

"We played back when the stadium wasn't enclosed and there were the track fans," Box recalled.  "We’d get off the bus [prior to entering the locker room before the game], and all those people on the railroad tracks would holler. I don’t know why, but some would specifically holler at me.  That’d really fire me up!  They'd call out my nicknames to me.  From the fans, or maybe a newspaper article, I was also nicknamed the "Wild Card" because you never knew where I'd lineup on kickoffs."

Box celebrates with a fellow special
teamer in 1975.  See those black stars
on his helmet's white stripe? Those
were given out each game to the top
UGA player on special teams... and
Box starred often.
I just had to ask the "Wild Card" what did he think was the problem with Georgia's recent coverage units.  The expert on kickoff/punt coverage remained humble, prefacing his answer by calling himself "only a couch coach." 

"All I know is that you need speed to get down there; size doesn’t matter.  A speedster doesn’t have to fight a block; he can dodge blocks.  You see what happened in that Auburn-Alabama game when ‘Bama tried that field goal with all them hogs out there (referring to Auburn's game-winning return of a missed field goal for a touchdown last season when Alabama's special teams unit consisted of primarily big, slow linemen)."

After graduating from UGA, Box quite appropriately, eventually became a firefighter for nearly 30 years.  He made an attempt at retirement but "just couldn't stay still," according to his wife, Freida.  Butch and Freida will be celebrating their 40th anniversary this December.  They were married during Butch's sophomore season and, get this, had their honeymoon in Orlando during Georgia's trip to the 1974 Tangerine Bowl.  Currently, Box works for Jay Electric Co., an industrial service and manufacturing business headquartered in Birmingham, in its mining market.  For a time, he—and again, appropriately—had the responsibility of going down into mines more than 1,500 feet deep and eight miles wide.

When it comes to Georgia football, Box still bleeds red and black.  "My whole family are big Dawg fans here [in Alabama]—my wife, my daughters and son," said Box, who is especially proud of his family.  "I got a great daughter-in-law too, and she and my son have one child, Ashlyn.  My granddaughter is very special to me.  Of course we all have to deal with those Alabama fans, and some Auburn fans that turned up this past year (laughing)."
Box has two daughters, Fran and Beth.  His son, Jody, was born at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens during Box's senior year.  Jody is married to Lorie, and their daughter, Ashlyn, is seven years old.
As we closed our conversation, the special teams great, who is even more so a great man, commented that it was "real sad"—sad that several players he had played with had passed away, including Jeff Sanders fairly recently.  He added, "But, I had a real good time seeing old friends at this past G-Day, and we're planning on coming to the Troy game for the lettermen's reunion on September 20th."
I'd like to add maybe in the meantime, Coach Richt can check to see if Butch has any remaining eligibility.  Playing when simply being "always fired up"  and really hustling—aspects perhaps missing from Georgia's coverage units of late—and not necessarily featuring defensive starters, made for special special teams play, Box was absolutely one of "Georgia's Finest," and he remains so—so much, I believe on kickoffs, the "Hit Man" could still jack 'em if need be.