As regular Dawg Sports readers are aware, I joined the National Football Foundation so that I could nominate Erk Russell for the College Football Hall of Fame. Although Coach Russell’s candidacy is being considered by the Veterans Committee instead, I have a vote in selecting the 2010 induction class and three former Bulldogs appear on the ballot.
The ballots are due by March 31. While I am able to vote on players and coaches from the divisional class (Divisions I-AA, II, and III, plus the NAIA), I, frankly, do not feel qualified to make judgments concerning those candidates. I am able to vote for up to eleven of the 77 Division I-A players who have been nominated and up to two of the seven Division I-A coaches who have been nominated. It is my intention to vote for the following candidates, but I remain open to persuasive arguments for or against the contenders. The full ballot may be downloaded in .pdf format here.
I tried to steer clear of guys (like Oklahoma’s Brian Bosworth) whose inclusion would be less than reputable, guys (like Arizona’s Tedy Bruschi) with whom I was familiar chiefly as an NFL player, and guys (like Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez) whose teams got absolutely punked by the Bulldogs in a bowl game. These are the nominees for whom I intend to vote, in alphabetical order:
1. Sam Cunningham (Southern California RB 1970-1972). I did a double take when I saw Bam’s name on the ballot; my immediate reaction was, "He’s not in the Hall of Fame already?" While the story of what Bear Bryant supposedly said to Gene Stallings on the bus ride back from Birmingham after Cunningham shredded the Crimson Tide defense probably is apocryphal, and while it is an overstatement to say that Sam Cunningham did more for integration in the South in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years, the fact is that the tailback who capped off a Trojan national championship campaign with a four-touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl did more than just rush for 1,579 yards and 23 touchdowns; he changed the game, and it is baffling to me that he has not been enshrined before now.
2. Eric Dickerson (Southern Methodist RB 1979-1982). Bear in mind, I’m voting for him as a player, not as a broadcaster. I’m not going to hold it against him that he played for the Mustangs in the heyday of what was then the dirtiest program in college football, because the guy did tally 4,450 career rushing yards and capture two conference player of the year awards while sharing the backfield with Craig James.
3. William "Lone Star" Dietz (Head Coach 1915-1917, 1921-1926, 1929-1932, 1937-1942). First of all, the dude gets credit for being nicknamed "Lone Star" years before "Spaceballs." Beyond that, a fellow whose 19-year career as a head coach is spent at six schools and spread out over four different decades wins points in my book. In addition to serving as an assistant coach under "Great Originator" (and former Georgia head coach) Pop Warner, Coach Dietz led Washington State to a Rose Bowl triumph (something that has grown even more impressive in retrospect). By the way . . . Coach Dietz’s resume includes nine years as a head coach at the Division I-A level (at Washington State, Purdue, Louisiana Tech, and Wyoming) and ten years at lower-level schools such as Albright in Pennsylvania and the Haskell Indian Institute in Kansas. Just bear that in mind when someone says Erk Russell doesn’t qualify for the Hall of Fame.
4. Desmond Howard (Michigan WR 1989-1991). Bear in mind, I’m voting for him as a player, not as a broadcaster. (I know I used that one already, but it still works.) The bottom line is that it’s pretty darned impressive when a Wolverine wins the Heisman Trophy without putting up Champ Bailey-like numbers.
5. Bill McCartney (Head Coach 1982-1994). The Buffaloes’ struggles in recent seasons help to place into context just how much Bill McCartney accomplished in his 13 years at the helm of the Colorado football program. He rendered relevant a program that previously had possessed little in the way of a national profile, thrice being named conference coach of the year and once capturing national coach of the year honors.
6. Ken Rice (Auburn DT 1958-1960). My SB Nation colleague Jay Coulter stated a persuasive case for this former Plainsman, and, as a result, he got my vote.
7. Deion Sanders (Florida State DB 1985-1988). I’m not happy with having to cast this vote because I am not a fan of Neon Deion, who might fairly be described as the anti-Herschel Walker where showmanship is concerned. Whereas the Goal-Line Stalker always acted like he’d been there before, Prime Time was a self-promotion machine before he’d ever done a damn thing; in that respect, he was Jimmy Clausen when Jimmy Clausen wasn’t cool. Unlike the Clausens, though, Sanders backed up his big mouth with big plays. The guy was a unanimous first-team all-American twice for a reason. Now, if only he’d gotten Dez Bryant declared ineligible before this debacle, I might feel all right about voting for him.
8. Jake Scott (Georgia DB 1967-1968). The first of three former Bulldogs to be named a Super Bowl MVP, Scott was the SEC’s most valuable player in Georgia’s 1968 conference title run. He led the league in interceptions twice in as many years as a varsity letterman and he set a conference record with two picks returned for scores in the same game. As we shall see with the last name on this list, I am partial to Bulldog defensive backs who return interceptions for touchdowns.
9. Sterling Sharpe (South Carolina WR 1984-1987). In addition to being a snappy dresser whose fashion sense I wish I was able to get away with emulating, Sharpe left Columbia as the Gamecocks’ career leader in receptions (169) and receiving yards (2,497). It’s impressive for a player to be his team’s leading receiver, even if his team is the Palmetto State Poultry.
10. Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia OT 1995-1998). The first of the Stinchcombs to pass through Athens was an accomplished athlete on the field, twice earning first-team all-conference and all-American honors while winning the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as a senior, but he distinguished himself off the field, as well. Stinchcomb was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and the first Campbell Trophy recipient to appear in the Super Bowl.
11. Lawrence Taylor (North Carolina LB 1977-1980). Anyone who knows me knows that I prefer defense to offense, and it isn’t a close contest. My favorite football player who didn’t play for Georgia was Deacon Jones, who invented the quarterback sack. If I had to name a second-favorite football player who never wore the red and black, I probably would pick LT, who revolutionized the linebacker position and created the kind of chaos that makes football so much fun.
12. Pat Tillman (Arizona State LB 1994-1997). I could make a big deal out of the fact that he was a first-team all-American, a two-time first-team academic all-conference player, and the first Sun Devil ever to be named Pac-10 defensive player of the year, but let’s not mince words here: when a great college athlete trades in his football uniform for a military uniform, voluntarily puts himself in harm’s way, and dies in the service of his country, he gets my vote for the Hall of Fame. End of conversation.
13. Scott Woerner (Georgia DB 1977-1980). "Woerner the Returner" is one of my all-time favorite players. My mother worked with his sister, Christy, 30 years ago, and, because of that association, I have an authentic Scott Woerner practice jersey from the preparations leading up to the 1981 Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame. Furthermore, Woerner is responsible for one of the most critical victories in the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship campaign. Clemson dominated Georgia statistically---the Tigers outdueled the ‘Dawgs in first downs (26-10), rushing yardage (204-126), and passing yardage (147-31)---and Danny Ford said afterward, "We played the pants off them." However, Woerner (who did not start the game) returned a punt 67 yards for one touchdown and returned an interception 98 yards to set up another in a first half in which the Red and Black gained no first downs and held the ball for fewer than five minutes. The result was a 20-16 Georgia victory. A Bulldog player who singlehandedly beats Clemson on a Red and Black run to the national championship gets my Hall of Fame vote every day of the week and twice on Saturday.
I plan to submit my ballot by facsimile on Monday. Should you wish to attempt to dissuade me from voting for some candidates and persuade me to vote for others, you may feel free to state your case in the comments below.