In those days, there was only one, on a rare occasion two, college football game televised each Saturday. Instead of surfing the dozens of TV options, or locking in on-line with your cell phone, the AM radio dial on the home stereo or in the car was slowly and gently turned, hoping to find the signal of a game.
It was a golden age of iconic radio announcers. None were better than the Greatest College Football Announcer Ever, The Legendary Voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, Larry Munson.
Occasionally in life, timing, conditions and performances create a harmonic convergence of brilliance. On October 28, 1978, magic was in the air. It was a cold clear night, and the booming signal of AM 750 WSB could be heard from Maine to Miami, and all the way to the Rockies. Every Georgia fan was huddled around their radios “from Tallapoosa to Tybee Light,” borrowing from the Greatest Bulldog Ever Dan Magill. Hordes of college football fans with no dog (or cat) in the fight, were tuned in and locked in.
Though things certainly didn’t start magically for Georgia’s “Wonderdogs,” who trailed defending Southeastern Conference champion Kentucky – a 33-0 winner in Athens the year prior – 16-0. But the comeback was on. The Dogs stacked up a couple of touchdowns to cut it to 16-14, and then, behind a superb offensive line and the running of SEC Player of the Year Willie McClendon, were on a last minute march.
“Among the many things that happened on that dramatic drive, the biggest play may have been Amp Arnold’s run across field for a first down after being trapped on the line of scrimmage after a pass completion,” recalls legendary Hall of Fame Coach Vince Dooley.
Knocking on the door, fighting the clock, the Bulldogs were sitting on the Kentucky 12, and the game would come down to the toe of one of Georgia’s most beloved All-American heroes ever, Rex Robinson.
“I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was 40 years ago,” recalls lifelong Bulldog fan Ty Wheeler, a track and field standout in Athens, Georgia graduate and season ticket holder. “ I was listening to the game that night in my bedroom, the only AM station in town, WDWD-990 in Dawson. My mom told me I’d have to go to bed soon because we had church the next day.”
“I noticed that she kept lingering longer each time she came in to remind me about going to bed, “ Wheeler continued. “The game kept getting tighter and tighter, and before I knew it, my whole family was in my room riveted to Munson’s call of Rex Robinson’s kick!”
Golden memories and there are so many stories like from this treasured night.
“The whole stadium’s standing, naw, some of ‘em are upside down, but they’re tryin’ to stand,” Munson pleaded as the drive that he masterfully called as “the whole ballgame came down to this.”
With eight seconds to go, Robinson split the uprights from 29 yards out, and one of Georgia’s best players ever delivered a kick accompanied by a call for the ages.
“Just inside the 19, it’s set down, he sticks it up, it looks good, watch it Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” proclaimed Munson. “Three seconds left, Rex Robinson put ‘em ahead 17-16 … the bench is unconscious … he kicked the whatchmacallit out of it.”
“The Mighty Munson” was at his very best, maybe the best that the greatest ever was.
“The game and Munson’s call had so energized the student body and the town that the planes couldn’t pull up to the terminal at the Athens airport to let us off,” fondly recalls then-sophomore defensive back Chris Welton. “It took the police 20 minutes to get the crowd back to where we could get off the plane, and then they broke through again, pouring drinks and beers on our heads. What a night!”
So many Georgia legends have had their feats of gridiron heroism live on forever, intertwined with Munson’s magic: Andy Johnson, Herschel Walker, Scott Woerner, Terry Hoage, Buck Belue, Lindsay Scott, Kevin Butler, Verron Haynes, David Greene, and of course, Rex Robinson.
“It has grown to mean more and more because while the kick itself was relatively short, the drive for the score and Larry’s emotion at the end is totally what makes it great,” recalls Robinson. “I’m very thankful to be included in Larry’s legacy.”
Whenever Georgia plays at Kentucky, that 1978 game and of course Munson come to mind. Thank goodness there wasn’t television for so many of Munson’s most magical moments, most of those away from Sanford Stadium. Every Bulldog in the world, except for that small patch of red on the road, was reliant on The Man.
When he delivered a Bulldogs victory, those great standouts shining through his nail-biting narrative – hey, a three-yard run by Vandy with the Bulldogs leading by four touchdowns would have your stomach in knots – it was this Athens eloquent equivalent to Homer’s tales of Zeus, Poseidon, and Achilles. And four decades ago, Larry Munson, like the conquering hero Robinson, delivered an Odyssey.