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Remembering Former Georgia Greats (Part III)

Due to a reader request, I have been offering something of a refresher course on "old school" Georgia greats whose legacies ought not to be forgotten.

In this latest installment, I will be taking a slightly different approach; this time, I will be recounting the achievements on the field of players who later became coaches after having distinguished themselves as student-athletes for the Red and Black.

In response to an earlier reader request, I am also incorporating a photograph of Kristin Davis.

Here, in chronological order, are the memorable Georgia gridiron stars whose exploits ought to be remembered and honored even today:

Marvin Dickinson (1900-1902): After transferring from Mercer to Georgia, Dickinson became a two-sport star, being elected captain of the 1901 baseball team as a catcher and being named to the 1902 all-Southern Conference football team as a left halfback. (His short-lived professional baseball career in the Texas League in 1904 interrupted his brief coaching stint at his alma mater.) When Red and Black coach Billy Reynolds resigned shortly before the start of the 1903 campaign to accept a position elsewhere, Dickinson was moved from halfback to head coach. The two teams that played under his tutelage, in 1903 and 1905, suffered from a lack of experience, as each squad could claim only one returning veteran from the previous autumn, but a Georgia program that suffered through seven losing seasons in the eight years between 1899 and 1906 experienced a brief moment of glory as a result of Dickinson's play on the field. The Red and Black limped into Atlanta to face Auburn at the tail end of an 0-5-1 run during which the Georgians had been outscored 166-11. After twice being stymied at the goal line by Plainsmen defensive stands, Dickinson took the ball at midfield and broke several tackles on his way to what would have been the game-winning score. An official ruled that his foot had grazed the sideline at the 22 yard line, but the emboldened Red and Black squad would not thereafter let Auburn cross midfield, preserving a scoreless tie that the Atlanta Constitution's Harry Hodgson described as "the biggest victory Georgia has won in years." (I hate Auburn.) When the news reached Athens, it provoked an historic response which the Atlanta Journal reported thusly:

The demonstration here tonight is unprecedented in the history of the institution. A large percent of the students went to Atlanta, but those who remained at home are making the night hideous. The chapel bell has been kept ringing, and the entire campus is aglow from three large bonfires. The fire alarm was turned in and the boys are parading the streets making the welkin ring with college songs and yells. The [double-barreled] cannon is being fired from the campus gate and crowds of citizens are participating in the celebration.

The emphasis added is mine, in order to highlight the birth of a victory tradition that endures to this very day.

For the record, it was 10 years ago this month that Susan and I were married in the Chapel . . . and, yes, we rang the bell after the ceremony. (Photograph from University of Georgia Office of the Vice President for Instruction.)

By the way, for anyone who might have happened by who is unfamiliar with Athens, yes, there is a double-barreled cannon downtown. (Photograph from Battery B, 4th U.S. Light Artillery.)

George Woodruff (1907-1908, 1910-1912): As those years of collegiate competition attest, eligibility requirements were not quite as strict in the early days of the N.C.A.A., enabling George Cecil "Kid" Woodruff to enjoy an extended and not altogether contiguous career in the Red and Black backfield. Woodruff captained Georgia's 7-1-1 squad in 1911 before posting a five-year record of 32-16-1 as the head coach at his alma mater, culminating in a 9-1 season in 1927 in which the Bulldogs' "Dream and Wonder Team" captured a share of the national title. The future Georgia coach first made his mark as a player on Thanksgiving Day 1907, when the younger brother of former Red and Black quarterback Harry Woodruff proved to be what the Macon Telegraph described as "the trickiest, squirmiest, pluckiest little quarterback seen for many a season" in guiding the team to a 6-0 victory over Auburn. (I hate Auburn.) The younger Woodruff proved his toughness against Mercer in 1908, when (as Dr. John F. Stegeman described it in The Ghosts of Herty Field) "he refused to leave the field" despite having "been knocked senseless several times." Two years later, playing with broken ribs, the Kid led Georgia to a win in the final game ever played at Herty Field. The following week, in a road game at Sewanee, Woodruff took advantage of the foggy playing conditions by lofting a long pass into the Purple Tiger secondary . . . and, having thus deceived the home team by hurling his headgear downfield, gave the ball to Hafford Hay for a touchdown. When selecting an "all-quarter-century team" made up of players from the period from 1892 to 1916, Dr. Stegeman chose George Woodruff as his first-team left halfback, just ahead of second-teamer Marvin Dickinson.

Pat Dye (1958-1960): I know . . . I think his University of Georgia diploma ought to be revoked, too. That is the only suitable punishment for a man who coached Auburn to four ill-gotten S.E.C. titles during an N.C.A.A.-sanctioned career on the Plains. (I hate Auburn.) During his playing days in the Classic City, though, he served his alma mater well. The Richmond County native was the youngest of three brothers to wear the silver britches as a first-string lineman, having been preceded in Athens by Wayne Dye, Jr., and Nat Dye. (As a senior, Nat was the alternate captain of the 1958 Georgia squad during Pat's first varsity season. Pat would go on to serve as alternate captain of the 1960 squad, behind permanent team captain Fran Tarkenton.) The youngest Dye proved to be the best of the lot, earning all-American honors at left guard in 1959 and 1960 after making his presence known against Kentucky during his sophomore season. Confronted with a Wildcat kick returner, Dye stripped the ball from Kentucky's all-S.E.C. halfback and returned the ball 25 yards for a touchdown. Over the next two seasons, Dye would be at his best against Georgia's biggest rivals, deflecting a Gator pass into a teammate's arms for a touchdown-scoring interception return in a victory over Florida, recording the fumble recovery that gave Tarkenton the opportunity to throw the last-minute touchdown pass that gave Georgia a 14-13 win over an Auburn team whose coaching staff included a young Vince Dooley, and blocking an extra point attempt with his face (yes, with his face) to preserve a 7-6 victory over Georgia Tech in his final game in a Bulldog uniform. Prior to 1981, Pat Dye was a distinguished 'Dawg.

I hate Auburn.

Steve Greer (1967-1969): Nowadays, most folks know him as Georgia's director of football operations, a post he has held since 1996. Prior to that point, Greer served his alma mater as recruiting coordinator, defensive end coach, defensive line coach, and defensive kicking game coach. What should not be forgotten, though, is that the captain of the 1969 Bulldog squad was a three-year starter on the defensive line under Erk Russell. Greer made the all-S.E.C. sophomore team in 1967 and the all-S.E.C. first team in 1969. In fact, Greer was a first-team all-American as a senior and he was awarded the Alexander Memorial Trophy by the Atlanta Touchdown Club as the South's outstanding lineman.

Ray Goff (1974-1976): While he didn't turn out to be much of a head coach, he was a far better player than you may remember. During his college career, Goff stood at 6'2" and was listed at a little over 200 pounds. (In Bull-Doggerel, Dan Magill claimed that the quarterback from Moultrie "tipped the scales at 220 pounds," which is about 12 pounds more than the record book says, but I'm not about to contradict Dan Magill on a matter of Georgia lore.) Goff was just the fifth Bulldog to have been honored as the S.E.C. Player of the Year, after Frank Sinkwich (1942), Charley Trippi (1946), Johnny Rauch (1948), and Jake Scott (1968). He guided the 'Dawgs to the 1976 conference crown and the Red and Black might well have finished atop the S.E.C. during his junior season in 1975, as well, had not Goff been injured in the first quarter of a road game in Oxford with Georgia holding what would prove in his absence to be an ephemeral seven-point lead. During the Bicentennial campaign, Goff turned in electrifying touchdown runs of 63 yards against Vanderbilt, 70 yards against Ole Miss, and 73 yards against Clemson. His signature performance, though, came in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. (Ironically, given his singular lack of success against the Gators as a coach, Goff was 3-0 against Florida as a varsity letterman.) The Big Lizards held a 27-13 halftime lead over the 'Dawgs, but Georgia cruised to a 41-27 victory on the strength of Goff's stellar second half. Over the course of the afternoon in Jacksonville, Goff threw five passes for five completions, no interceptions, 37 yards, and two touchdowns while rushing 17 times for 124 yards (7.3 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Goff was elected the permanent team captain of the 1976 S.E.C. champions. In what Jimmy Carter would tell you was a good year for South Georgians, no native of the Coastal Plain had a better autumn in 1976 than Ray Goff.

Believe it or not, there was a time when Ray Goff contributed to victories over Florida and S.E.C. championship seasons.

Georgia alumni have achieved varying degrees of distinction as coaches, from the awful (Marvin Dickinson) to the mediocre (Ray Goff), from the outstanding (George Woodruff) to the appalling (Pat Dye), but, regardless of how well or poorly a former Bulldog fared on the sideline, the men who wore the silver britches and fought in the trenches for the Red and Black deserve to be honored for their accomplishments on the field.

Go 'Dawgs!