Earlier in the week, I proposed Kevin Butler, Terry Hoage, David Pollack, Erskine Russell, and Herschel Walker as the initial slate of five Dawg Sports nominees for the SB Nation college football hall of fame. The ensuing discussion made it clear that a consensus had formed around three-time first-team All-American Pollack as our nominee for defensive lineman, around Erk as our nominee for coach (and, because he was the head coach at Georgia Southern, as our non-AQ nominee, as well), and around three-time first-team All-American Walker as our nominee for running back.
That leaves us with two slots to fill, and with eight categories from which and four candidates among whom to choose. The categories are athlete, defensive back, linebacker, offensive lineman, quarterback, special teams, tight end, and wide receiver. The Georgia Bulldogs are these:
Champ Bailey, Athlete or Defensive Back: The greatest of the Folkston Bailey Bulldogs, Champ could qualify at a number of spots on the gridiron, but, because there is another potential “athlete” and another potential defensive back in the field, we must be somewhat strategic in our thinking. In his final year in silver britches, Bailey took home the 1998 Bronko Nagurski Award as the country’s best defensive player and earned consensus All-American honors during a campaign in which he was on the field for more than 1,000 plays. As a cornerback, kickoff and punt returner, and wide receiver, Bailey racked up 744 receiving yards, 261 kickoff return yards, 84 rushing yards, 52 tackles, 49 punt return yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions in 1998, compiling combined numbers that compare favorably with those amassed by Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson the year before. Because the Heisman Trophy is stupid, Champ only finished seventh in the balloting in 1998, but he was taken in the first round of the following year’s NFL Draft.
Kevin Butler, Special Teams: The only kicker in the actual college football hall of fame, Butler made All-SEC in each of his collegiate seasons and was a Football News All-American as a junior before becoming a consensus All-American in 1984. He left school after four years as the school record holder in points scored (353) and field goals made (77), the NCAA leader in multiple field goal games (27), and the man responsible for the 60-yard three-pointer that inspires Bulldog Nation to this day. Plus, his son, Drew Butler, went on to become an All-American punter for the Bulldogs. When a guy’s such a damn good ‘Dawg that his greatness is genetically transferrable to the next generation of Georgia players, he ought to have a plaque.
Terry Hoage, Defensive Back: As a freshman in 1980, the Texan had no solo tackles, no sacks, no interceptions, and only one assist. Over the course of the next three years, though, Hoage boosted those numbers to 137 solo takedowns, 86 assists, ten sacks, and 14 picks, including an NCAA-leading twelve in 1982. (Teammate Jeff Sanchez finished second nationally with nine interceptions of his own, incidentally.) The two-time consensus All-American and two-time Academic All-American (who would go on to earn NCAA and National Football Foundation Post-Graduate Scholarship Awards) posted what was, at the time, the highest-ever finish by a defensive back in the Heisman Trophy voting, garnering the fifth-best ballot tally in 1983. Like Walker, Hoage saw his individual contributions pay dividends in team achievements, as the Bulldogs’ 43-4-1 ledger over the course of his four-year collegiate career was the best in the country over that period.
Hines Ward, Athlete or Wide Receiver: Obviously, Ward, even more so than Bailey, could be considered at multiple spots in the lineup, but the question, for present purposes, is whether to designate Ward as Georgia’s “slash” player or put him at a particular position. Running back is taken, of course, but Ward could be called a quarterback, as well. In his four-year Bulldog career, Ward amassed 4,788 all-purpose yards, compiling them in every way possible. He had 203 carries for 1,063 rushing yards, 144 catches for 1,965 receiving yards, 120 attempts for 918 passing yards, and 48 returns for an additional 842 yards. Ward led the Red and Black in passing in 1995, in kickoff returns in 1996, and in receiving in 1996 and in 1997. Together with Jake Scott and Terrell Davis, Ward is one of three former Bulldogs to have gone on to be named a Super Bowl MVP, and, to top it all off, he wants to come home to his alma mater.
These are all damn good ‘Dawgs deserving of inclusion, but we have to pick our top five, so it’s time to start making some tough choices. Let us know which two of the foregoing four players should join Pollack, Walker, and Coach Russell on our list of nominees. Likewise, join in the conversation in the comments below, and check out the network-wide discussion on Twitter by searching for the hashtag “#SBNHOF.” Poll voting remains open through Monday afternoon, with the final choices to be named on Tuesday.