I was particularly interested to see current Bulldog Jeff Owens writing on his blog last week about his top five all-time favorite UGA football players, as I’d recently gone through a similar exercise while putting together my bio for the “new look” Blawg. (Just click on “About Bill King” over on the right-hand side of the page to check it out.)
It’s not as easy as it sounds, particularly if you’ve been following the Dawgs as long as I have. Jeff’s five favorites were Herschel Walker, Knowshon Moreno, David Pollack, Champ Bailey and Greg Blue, two of whom he played with.
Now I don’t know Jeff’s criteria, but for my favorites list I didn’t necessarily think about who were the greatest, best or most valuable players, though those adjectives certainly apply to most of the folks I ended up picking. Instead, I went with those players that I felt a special affinity for during their Georgia playing days and continued to follow in years after. I ended up with seven favorites for my list: Fran Tarkenton, Lynn Hughes, Andy Johnson, Herschel Walker, Hines Ward, David Greene and Mohamed Massaquoi.
Tarkenton I picked because he’s the first Georgia Bulldog I really knew anything about when I was a kid and I followed him during his many years as a record-setting QB in the NFL. Plus he was from Athens, my hometown.
Lynn Hughes became a favorite of mine during Vince Dooley’s first season in Athens when he shared the quarterbacking duties with Preston Ridlehuber. Later, he switched over to defense, where he starred at safety. He played hard and was willing to do whatever the coaches asked of him. Another connection: I was his paperboy, delivering The Atlanta Journal to him when he lived in the Town House apartments on Lumpkin Street near Five Points. (I remember I didn’t want to cash the first check he wrote for me because it had his “autograph” on it, but my banker Dad told me that didn’t make any business sense.)
Andy Johnson was another Athens boy and one I went to school with from seventh grade on. We played touch football together in junior high and he went on to be the star QB for the Athens High Trojans, leading our team to a state co-championship with Valdosta in 1969. Andy also was an extremely talented baseball player (he played for the Dawgs and could have signed with MLB) and played basketball and ran track in high school, too. He was one of the most talented athletes I ever saw and he’s also a really nice guy.
Herschel, well, he’s everybody’s favorite. No need to spell out why he made my list, except to say what a sheer pleasure it was to watch him run during his days at Sanford Stadium. The greatest.
Hines Ward was another versatile player who did whatever was asked of him, including playing hurt, while at tailback, quarterback and wide receiver during his time in Athens. A classy guy who’s gone on to NFL success with a Super Bowl MVP award.
David Greene was the coolest quarterback I’ve ever seen, maintaining his composure even when he didn’t have much of an offensive line in front of him. He also was the most adept at faking the handoff I’ve ever seen and could make some of the prettiest, most precise passes imaginable. Another classy guy and the winningest QB in NCAA history. I really enjoyed talking with him last summer in advance of the Countdown to Kickoff event.
Mohamed Massaquoi turned heads as a freshman with his acrobatic, nearly impossible catches. I not only appreciated his talent, I liked his attitude, especially when he went through a rough patch with drops and some elements of fandom started booing him. He bounced back with many more game-changing catches and also served as a mentor to A.J. Green during his senior year. Another classy guy.
If I’d had to pad my favorites list out to a Top 10, it would have been tough narrowing it down from so many over the years, but I’d have to go with Jake Scott, everybody’s favorite bad boy during his years at UGA; Kevin Butler, our greatest placekicker and a funny guy on the radio; and Champ Bailey, an incredible two-way star in an era of specialization. But there are lots of others whose names come to mind, including Pat Hodgson, Buzy Rosenberg, Richard Appleby, Scott Woerner, Terry Hoage, Buck Belue, Bill Goldberg, Richard Tardits, Garrison Hearst and David Pollack.
Feel free to share your all-time Bulldog favorites …
BULLDOG BITES: My brother Jon and my son both were at Saturday’s meet at a packed Stegeman Coliseum where the Gym Dogs mopped up the floor with the Florida Gators. (Parking was nearly impossible to find, they said.) Just as my brother, a longtime Gym Dogs fan, told me earlier this season, Suzanne Yoculan’s last team seems to rise to the occasion when they face top competition. Which is what top teams in any sport must do. … Speaking of top teams, the Diamond Dogs are off to a blazing start, having swept a three-game series out at Arizona this weekend, outscoring the Wildcats an aggregate 33-14. The Dogs, with their best start since 2000 at 8-0, return to Foley Field at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Wofford.