Bill Stanfill is one of the greatest players in Georgia football history, and in an elite stratosphere of the most dominant defenders in gridiron annals. He was one of the toughest combatants to ever wear the red and black, an All-American and College Football Hall of Famer, Stanfill was an incredible force for the Bulldogs and then in the National Football League for the Miami Dolphins.
Three of his coaches, amongst the best of the best in the history of the sport, Vince Dooley and defensive coordinator Erk Russell at Georgia, and Don Shula in Miami, all ranked Stanfill as one of their all time great players.
As superb as he was on the field, “Big” Bill Stanfill was equally loved and admired by his family, and numerous friends and admirers.
This titan of the trenches, who battled numerous injuries on the field, passed away November 10th at the age of 69, succumbing to a series of health problems.
He takes his place now amongst departed Georgia legends like Coach Russell, Dan Magill, Larry Munson and Bill Hartman, who have all left us in the 21st century.
“I feel so fortunate to have known Bill Stanfill as a teammate and more importantly as a dear friend,” reflects his teammate from the 1968 Southeastern Conference champions, former Bulldog coach and current special assistant Mike Cavan. “Bill was without a doubt one of Georgia’s all time greatest players, along with being one of the characters in Georgia’s history. We will all miss him and his infectious personality. God bless Bill Stanfill.”
Stanfill’s great play was a cornerstone of Georgia’s incredible success during his three-year career at Georgia. At 6-5, 245 – huge in those days – with great speed and footwork, Stanfill had all the tools. His tremendous tenacity, grit and toughness combined with those “measure-ables” is what put him over the top to make him a destructive force on the field.
As a sophomore in 1966, Stanfill was an All-Southeastern Conference selection and a stalwart on one of the best defensive lines, which also featured senior All-American George Patton, ever at Georgia. The Bulldogs won the SEC championship in Dooley’s third season at the helm, finished 10-1 and No. 4 in the country. Amongst the signature wins for Georgia were a 23-14 triumph over undefeated Tech and 27-10 victory over undefeated Florida and Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier in Jacksonville, the latter which marked one of Stanfill’s greatest performances. He harassed the Florida All-American throughout the afternoon, and spearheaded an incredible defensive performance, highlighted by Lynn Hughes interception return for a touchdown and preventing the Gators from gaining a second half first down.
“Bill was really beaten up, but he got in the locker room early, and the trainers and doctors rubbed him down and stretched out his neck and back and shoulders,” recounts his 1966 teammate and longtime Georgia coach John Kasay. “We knew we had to have him to win, and boy did he play a great game that day.”
It is fitting that just a few hours after Stanfill’s death, 50 years and seven days later, Georgia beat Auburn 13-7, returning an interception for a touchdown and holding the Tigers without a first down in the second half.
There was a similar occurrence back in 2006 when Coach Russell unexpectedly passed away the day before the Bulldogs played South Carolina. That Saturday, Georgia won 18-0 in Columbia, the first shutout for the Dogs in a road SEC game since 1980, the great man’s final season as defensive coordinator in Athens.
A pair of one-point heartbreaking losses cost the Bulldogs a great season in 1967, as Georgia went 7-4 and Stanfill earned All-SEC honors again
But in 1968, the Bulldogs would not be denied. Stanfill, spearheading another stellar front that included future All- American Steve Greer, Billy Payne and Terry Osbolt, had one of the best seasons in Georgia annals. Leading the Bulldogs to a second SEC title in three years, Team Captain Bill Stanfill was a unanimous All-American, Academic All-American, All-SEC selection and recipient of the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best lineman in the nation.
“Bill was one of the greatest natural athletes I ever had the privilege of coaching,” Dooley says of the lone Outland winner he coached in 25 years at Georgia. He was a tremendous competitor with an amazing wingspread. Bill was a furious pass-rusher and tremendous against the run. Without a doubt, he is one of the greatest players in Georgia history.”
Following his hallowed days in Athens, Stanfill went on to an illustrious career with the Dolphins, along with his friend, teammate and fellow Bulldog great Jake Scott. These two teamed up as part of Shula’s “no-name defense,” helping spearhead three straight Miami Super Bowl teams from 1971-73.
It is the ’72 season that is the most famous though, as Miami became, still to this day, the lone undefeated team in NFL history, capping a 17-0 campaign with a 14-7 win over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII. Stanfill, who led the team in sacks, combined with Vern Den Herder to sack Billy Kilmer on the final play of the game. Scott was Super Bowl VII MVP.
The Dolphins would repeat as Super Bowl champions in 1973, and Stanfill was amongst the premier players in the NFL, a Pro Bowl selection five times. Injuries cut what was a sure-fire Hall of Fame career short, but he retired as the team’s all-time leader in sacks, and in 2010, Stanfill and Scott went into the Dolphin Honor Roll together.
Amongst his many additional accolades, Stanfill was named first team on the SEC’s 50th Anniversary All-time Team in 1982, the SEC’s All-1960s Team, and the Miami Dolphins All-Time Team.
A member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the University’s Circle of Honor.
The College Football Hall of Fame induction of 1998 is amongst his greatest achievements and accomplishments, as Stanfill took his rightful place amongst the best to ever play the game.
“When I stood with the other Hall of Famers at Georgia, I was in awe that I was even in the same room with Bill,” says fellow Bulldog legend and 2001 inductee Kevin Butler. “He was one of my favorite players growing up, a giant. But Bill treated me like a teammate and we all loved him.”