Coming up with No. 1 on a list of Georgia's 10 greatest players is easy. But it gets increasingly hard as you move down the list and can produce arguments what will last into the night. (AP Photo)
So as I mentioned on social media yesterday, I’ve been working on a summer project for the AJC in which one of the assignments was to name the 10 “most memorable players” in Georgia football history. Do you have any idea what a maddening and pretty much impossible task that is?
You can say a lot of things about the Bulldogs, but they have produced a lot of great players in their 120-year football history. And I don’t use the term “great” lightly. In all, they’ve had 68 All-Americans and 12 Bulldogs have been inducted in the College Football Hall of Game.
It was so hard to limit to just 10 players that I finally turned to Facebook and Twitter and just kind of threw it out there to get the opinions of Georgia fans. As is usually the case when you present something to the Bulldog Nation, the response was overwhelming and passionate. In the end, the feedback helped me finally whittle down the last few choices. But in other ways it made the whole exercise even more confusing as a couple of names came flying in that I hadn’t considered.
The reality is, when you’re thinking of “great” and “memorable” Georgia football players, you could easily list two dozen without batting an eyelid. But the assignment called for 10, not 24, so here’s what I finally went with:
- Herschel Walker, TB (1980-82): Every conversation about great Georgia players begins and ends with the “Goal-line Stalker” from Wrightsville. All Walker did was come in as a true freshman and rush for 1,616 yards and 15 touchdowns and lead the Bulldogs to their first consensus national championship since 1942. Walker went on to become a three-time consensus All-American and finally won the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 1982. He finished his career with 5,259 yards in just 33 games, an average of 159.4 per contest.
- Charley Trippi, TB (1942, ‘45-46): Trippi is still regarded by many as the greatest all-around athlete to ever play for the Bulldogs. As a senior he led the SEC in scoring and total offense and won the Maxwell Award as the country’s best back and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. A member of both the pro and college halls of fame, he is one of only four UGA players to have his number (62) retired.
- David Pollack, DE (2001-04): After being recruited to Georgia as a fullback, Pollack became a three-time All-American as a defensive end. His most famous play is a caused-fumble and one-handed, mid-air scoop-and-score against South Carolina in the 2002 SEC championship season. He owns the Bulldogs’ record for career sacks.
- Jake Scott, S (1967-68): Though he played for the Bulldogs only two seasons, Scott proved to be one of their most explosive play-makers of all time. He led the SEC in interceptions both seasons and led the league in punt return yardage in 1968. He still holds the UGA record for career interceptions (16) and interception return yardage (315). He went on to a long and productive career with the Miami Dolphins and was named Super Bowl MVP in 1972.
- Champ Bailey, CB/WR (1996-98): Bailey proved to be one of the Bulldogs’ most versatile athletes ever. His junior season he played on both offense and defense while also playing special teams. He logged more than 100 plays in seven games and played more than 1,000 snaps that season. Was named an All-American and won the Bronko Nagurski Award in 1998.
- Garrison Hearst, TB (1990-92): Hearst led the Bulldogs in rushing each of his three seasons, including 1992 when he ran for 1,547 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. His 1,910 all-purpose yards that season was second-best in school history, won him the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best back and led to a third-place finish in Heisman voting.
- Frank Sinkwich (1940-42): Georgia’s first Heisman Trophy recipient (1942) led the Bulldogs to wins in the Orange and Rose bowls and the 1942 national championship. A member of the college football hall of fame, he rushed for 2,771 yards, passed for 2,331 yards and accounted for 60 TDs – 30 rushing and 30 passing in his career. You can’t leave off a Heisman winner.
- Bill Stanfill, DT (1966-68): Stanfill led Georgia to a 25-6-2 record and two SEC championships in his three seasons on the field for the Bulldogs and was team captain, All-American and Academic All-American in 1968. That same year he won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman. He went on to a highly-decorated NFL career with the Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins.
- Hines Ward, ATH (1994-97): Ward proved to be one of the most versatile offensive players of all times. During his career, he started at quarterback, tailback and wide receiver while also serving as a kick returner. He set the Georgia bowl record with 469 yards total offense (413 passing) in the 1995 Peach Bowl. He finished his career with 4,788 all-purpose yards (1,965 receiving, 1,063 rushing, 918 passing and 842 in returns).
- Terry Hoage, ROV (1980-83): Former Georgia coach Vince Dooley called Hoage the best defensive player he’s ever coached and “maybe the best I’ve ever seen.” The two-time All-American finished fifth in the 1983 Heisman Trophy balloting. He led the nation with 12 interceptions in 1982 and blocked a field goal against Notre Dame in Georgia’s national championship-clinching Sugar Bowl victory.
A few qualifiers: The numbers don’t reflect a ranking. It’s merely to enumerate and actually reflects the order that I committed to the respective players being on the list; I tried to pay respect to earlier generations of Georgia football but, as you might expect, the list is tilted toward modern football player; and, as you’ll note, there are a lot of truly great players not included.
Here are some that I really struggled with leaving off: CB/PR Scott Woerner, WR A.J. Green, TB Knowshon Moreno, FS Thomas Davis, QB Eric Zeier, QB David Greene, PK Kevin Butler, QB Fran Tarkenton.
So, for better or worse, that’s the list I came up with. I’d love to hear what you guys might have done differently or who you might replace with whom. And who knows, nothing is in print yet. If you can offer a convincing enough argument I might just see if we can get it changed.
Thanks for your input.