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Remembering Former Georgia Greats (Part II)

In response to a reader request, I recently offered a short history lesson on Bulldog greats who may not be remembered as widely as they deserve.

While the series was put on hiatus by intervening events---e.g., the release of The Eyes of Texas, my critique of the Worldwide Leader in Sports (which has drawn subsequent attention from Serious Dismay Sports), the revival of "The Movement," and the S.E.C. Media Days---I am back with another installment, this time featuring one Bulldog each from the '20s, the '40s, the '60s, the '70s, and the '80s.

Joe Bennett (1920-1923): The Statesboro native was a four-year starter at tackle for the Red and Black, playing most of his career under Herman J. Stegeman. Bennett played for Georgia's first conference championship team as a freshman and served as team captain as a senior. In addition to twice making the all-Southern Conference squad and twice being named an all-American, Bennett played basketball for the Bulldogs for three years. During his playing days, the Georgia football team went 2-2 against Alabama, 3-1 against Auburn, 2-0 against Clemson, 1-0 against Florida (by a 56-point margin in the Bulldogs' fifth straight series shutout of the Gators), and 2-0 against Tennessee. Like future Georgia team captain Frank Ros, Bennett would go on to become a Coca-Cola executive.

Johnny Rauch (1945-1948): Georgia's first postwar quarterback started 45 consecutive games under center and, although his 483 career pass attempts set a short-lived school record which was eclipsed in 1952, he remains eighth on the all-time list for forward passes flung, trailing Buck Belue by a lone attempt. Rauch's average gain per attempt (8.37 yards) remains the second-best career mark by a Georgia quarterback and only four of his successors (Mike Bobo, David Greene, D.J. Shockley, and Eric Zeier) managed a better career pass efficiency rating (133.04). Against Clemson in 1946, Rauch became the first Bulldog ever to throw four touchdown passes in a game, a feat which would not be equaled until 1993. More impressive than his individual statistics, though, was his leadership on the field. Rauch guided the 'Dawgs to a 36-8-1 record in his career, capturing two S.E.C. titles and a national championship while going 2-1-1 in postseason appearances in the Gator, Oil, Orange, and Sugar Bowls. During Rauch's four years as a Georgia letterman, the Red and Black posted records of 2-2 against Alabama, 4-0 against Auburn (with the closest contest being decided by a 22-point margin), 3-0 against Clemson, 4-0 against Florida, 3-1 against Georgia Tech, and 2-1 against L.S.U. In 1948, as a senior, Rauch was elected alternate team captain, selected to two all-American teams, and named S.E.C. Player of the Year. He later coached the Oakland Raiders to a three-year ledger of 33-8-1, including a Super Bowl berth following the 1967 campaign.

Charley Whittemore (1968-1970): We hardly think of the Vince Dooley teams of the 1960s and '70s as explosive passing offenses, yet Whittemore put up big numbers for his day as a split end on the 1968 S.E.C. champion Bulldogs and as a flanker his junior and senior years. His 114 career receptions and his 1,680 career receiving yards still place him among the top 10 receivers in the history of Georgia football, while his 10 receptions at Kentucky in 1970 set a school record that endured for more than 20 years. Whittemore's 40 catches as a sophomore set a standard that would not be surpassed until Andre Hastings hauled in 48 in 1991 and Whittemore's 46 receptions as a senior established a record that would not fall until Shannon Mitchell snagged 49 in 1993. Such achievements did not merely yield impressive statistics, though; Whittemore's catches had consequences, dating back to his first year as a student-athlete. In the days before freshmen were eligible to take the field in varsity games, the first-year players for the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets squared off annually. Whittemore caught the game-winning pass in the freshman game at historic Grant Field, offering an early glimpse of a stellar career that would include an off-balance one-handed touchdown reception in an upset of Auburn on the Plains in 1970. Against Florida in 1968, in a game in which the 'Dawgs were favored by eight points, Whittemore caught the 26-yard touchdown pass from Mike Cavan that turned a comfortable lead into a rout, culminating in a 51-0 Georgia victory. After college, Whittemore served a 13-year stint as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs.

Richard Appleby (1973-1975): The Georgia football team was integrated in the fall of 1971 when the first five black Bulldogs arrived on campus. Appleby was one of those five players. A three-year starter at tight end, he led the 'Dawgs in receiving in each of his varsity seasons, including a 23-catch, 510-yard junior campaign in 1974. Between Appleby's departure and Andre Hastings's arrival, no Georgia receiver not named Lindsay Scott would have a better year than that. Like Lindsay Scott, Richard Appleby would record his signature moment in a victory over Florida in the Gator Bowl. This one, too, involved a game-winning pass that produced a legendary Larry Munson play call . . . only, this time, the Georgia tight end threw the noteworthy pass. With the Bulldogs trailing 7-3 and fewer than four minutes remaining in the game, Appleby took the handoff from quarterback Ray Goff, running what appeared to be Georgia's third end-around of the afternoon. Appleby, however, stopped and uncorked an 80-yard T.D. pass to flanker Gene Washington to pull out a 10-7 win.

Freddie Gilbert (1980-1983): While I don't seriously worry that anyone is going to forget the standout defensive lineman, the career of the four-year starter, two-time all-S.E.C. defensive end, and 1983 all-American warrants mention. On a 1980 squad that boasted eight seniors among the regular defensive starters, Gilbert made arguably the second-biggest impact of any freshman on the Bulldogs' most recent national championship-winning team. In his collegiate career, Gilbert was 3-1 against Auburn, 2-1-1 against Clemson, 4-0 against Florida, 4-0 against Georgia Tech, 4-0 against South Carolina, and 2-0 against Tennessee. (In fact, Georgia lost only four games in Gilbert's four-year career . . . and those were to teams that finished ranked first, second, first, and third, respectively, in the final coaches' polls for each of those years.) Gilbert's ability to get pressure on the quarterback is evidenced by his 26 career sacks.

College football season is only barely over a month away. As we prepare ourselves for another autumn of gridiron glory between the hedges, we would do well to bear in mind those Bulldogs who have gone before, whose legacy the current generation of men wearing silver britches will endeavor to uphold and surpass.

Go 'Dawgs!