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August 28, 2014

In Celebration of Coach Magill, I Concur...

There's a "celebration of life" scheduled for noon today at the Athens Country Club, and if ever a life should be celebrated, it's that of the legendary Dan Magill.  

Over the last several days, a lot has been posted on Coach Magill regarding his accomplishments, what he stood for, how he is the greatest Bulldog of all time, and how he touched so many people's lives.  Therefore, for what it's worth, I felt compelled to post how he personally touched mine.

During the summer of 2007, when I was putting the finishing touches on About Them Dawgs!my encyclopedia-like book consisting of Bulldog facts, stats, and informationthere was a specific individual I had in mind to write its foreword, who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

At that point, I had never met Coach Magill, but when I visited him at his office inside the tennis hall of fame, he instantly made me feel like we were long-time friends.  After he gave me a tour of the facility, introduced me to the hall's "night watchman" (many of you know exactly "who" I speak of), and I briefed him on the foreword he graciously agreed to write, I then decided to leave him beI'm sure the great Dan Magill has a lot more other things to do, I thought to myself.

As I headed for the door, he interrupted with something on the order of, "What do you think of that freshman sensation we have in the backfield?"

Of course, he was talking about redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno; however, with Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin returning at the position, while Moreno had yet to set foot on a college gridiron, I questioned as I returned to sit at his desk, "Do you think he'll even see the field in the opener [against Oklahoma State]?" 

Coach Magill responded with something like, "Oh, not only will he play, you'll be hearing a lot about him!"

Chuckling, I then asked the king of nicknames if he had already bestowed a moniker to Moreno.  And, he hadn'tnot yet, anyway. But, Coach Magill stated that if he eventually did so, the name might have to do with how Moreno seemed to "hit the hole" so quickly. Magill, who had observed Moreno in practice, added something like, "he hits the hole quicker than any Bulldog I've seen since Frankie Sinkwich."

On that summer day, I wound up talking to Coach Magill at least an hour more than when I had originally gotten up to leave.  And, we all know what ever came of "that freshman sensation"by the following summer, the third-stringer-turned-superstar was being touted for the Heisman Trophy.

Along with possessing a number of attributes and accomplishmentstoo many to listCoach Magill, as simple as it sounds, knew what he was talking about. And, when he spoke, it would be to your benefit to listen up.

Through snail mail just days later, I promptly received the foreword, which appeared as if it was actually typed using an old typewriter.  Nevertheless, it was certainly Magill-esque, mentioning the two Georgia players he believed stood "head and shoulders above the rest: Herschel Walker, the Goal Line Stalker," and "Charley Trippi, the Italian Stallion." Coach Magill ended his foreword with, "Immortal Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd called Charley Trippi the greatest all-round player he had ever seen. Of the hundreds of memorable and outstanding football players I have observed since the 1920s, I concur with Coach Dodd."

For the next several years, I'd speak with Coach Magill two or three times a year, whether in person or by phone, about just whatever.  Between one and two years ago, I was curious about his renowned reputation of nicknaming UGA football players, particularly the identity of the very first player he nicknamed, and wanted to compile a thorough listing beyond what Georgia reveals in its records. However, upon attempting to reach out to him is when I was informed he had been placed in assisted living.  My research in discovering the history of Magill's nicknames would likely have to be conducted without the assistance of the "king of nicknames" himself.

Coach Magill in 1950
A discovery: In 1950, or a year after returning to UGA to begin his long tenure as sports publicity director, among his many, many other duties, Coach Magill served as an "encyclopedia and almanac," providing assistance to The Red and Black. In August of that year, he also wrote a piece for the newspaperthe only article he'd write for The Red and Black over a long period of timefeaturing a particular Bulldog quarterback, and with it, bestowing one of his firstif not the firstUGA football nicknames.

Third-year quarterback Billy Grant of Valdosta had starred on Georgia's freshman Bullpups' team in 1948, but then broke a finger prior to the '49 season and was held out of competition.  Entering 1950, Grant appeared to be the varsity's No. 3 quarterback behind Mal Cook and Ray Prosperi, who combined to pass for over 1,000 yards the year before.  

Only a couple of weeks prior to Magill's article, a writer for The Red and Black declared Cook and Prosperi "a notch" ahead of Grant at quarterback when highly-touted Maryland would be arriving to Athens in late September.  Yet, Magill would claim, "Grant is one of those 'game' players...when the chips are down you can depend on him."  The chips would likely be down facing the favored Terrapins, but similarly to how I questioned Moreno playing in the 2007 season opener, one might have questioned Magill on whether Grant could conceivably see the field in the opening game of 1950.

Coach Magill must have believed Billy Grant would do much more than just see the field as he dubbed the quarterback, "the Valdosta Volcano."  And, similarly to his prognosis of Moreno 57 years later, Magill ended his article with, "You'll be hearing a lot about the Valdosta Volcano this fall."

Long story short, not only did the reserve Grant inexplicably start against Marylandforecasted as a two-to-three touchdown favoritebut, in the end, the Bulldogs reportedly "whipped the turtle shells from off their backs" in a shocking 27 to 7 victory. Grant's statistics weren't flashy, passing for a single touchdown, but he indeed was a dependable "game" player, who demonstrated "generalship and command" of the team like few had ever seen from a quarterback, according to one of Grant's teammates recently. When Grant was lost for the season with a knee injury the following game, and his Georgia career essentially over, "it took the wind out of our sails," the same teammate informed me, "and we could never really recover."

Like the immortal Dodd calling Trippi the greatest all-round player ever, the Bulldog Nation regards Coach Magill as the greatest all-round Bulldog ever. And, I concur.  If I could add, when the greatest Bulldog ever spoke, whether out loud or via his typewriter, it was beneficial for all to listen up.  I was fortunate enough to learn this lesson first hand; I was fortunate enough to get to know Coach Magill. 

Rest in Peace, Coach.  To the audience that awaits you in that Better Place, you've probably heard a lot about Dan Magill already; however, if I could stress, when he speaks, I'd listen up if I were you.  Simply put, the man knows what he's talking about.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece about a tremenndous man! Thank you pat for all your hard work to make your blog one of best--Artie