The color analyst for Georgia football, Eric Zeier, who first learned football in Heidelberg, Germany, the land of his paternal forebears, was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame last weekend in Macon.
Those basic facts along with his sentimental journey in football caused the former Bulldog quarterback to gush with humility as he testified to his appreciation for the honor that came his way in front of family and friends and abundant Red & Black supporters.
Zeier was one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Southeastern Conference history. His career stat sheet was longer than Al Capone’s rap sheet. By the end of his collegiate playing days, he held 67 school passing records and 18 records in the SEC.
He finished his career with more passing yards than guys named Jim McMahon and Steve Young of BYU, Andre Ware (Houston), John Elway (Stanford), Dan Marino (Pitt), Randall Cunningham (UNLV) and Brett Favre (Southern Miss).
When you peruse his impressive SEC records, at the end of his career, you find these hallmarks: career passing yards, 11,153; career completions, 838; career total offense, 10, 841; consecutive attempts without an Interception, 176; career lowest percentage of interceptions, 2.64%; season passing yards, 3,525; passing yards in a single game, 544 (now second all-time).
Following a freshman year in which he won the starting job and led the Bulldogs to victory in the Independence Bowl over Arkansas 24-15, he saw his team, a season later, enjoy a banner year, posting a 10-2 record and defeating Ohio State 21-14 in the Citrus Bowl.
With the Dawgs finishing 5-6 and 6-4-1 his last two seasons, he was sorely disappointed, being the competitor, he was. I have heard helmets slamming into lockers after tough loses, players resorting to blatant cussing and all sorts of temperamental outbursts but nothing to compare to Zeier’s eruption in Tuscaloosa in 1994 when Alabama came from behind to defeat Georgia 29-28. He beat his helmet against the wall and kicked everything in his path—he never experienced any compatibility with losing a football game.
A funny thing happened with him, when his family settled in Cobb County, and he had enrolled at Marietta High School. He was enjoying a casual ride around the neighborhood one Saturday afternoon. He turned on the radio and became infatuated with a Larry Munson broadcast. “I kept on driving and listening,” he says, “I was just amazed and wanted to go see a Georgia game after that.”
Many of his friends were enrolled in Athens and he was attracted to the alumni commitment to the institution. “I noticed the love and feeling that those alumni had, and when I got to Athens, it felt like home from the very beginning. When I go back on Gameday to do the broadcast, I get that same feeling. I get as nervous calling a game as I did when I played.”
When he left for a six-year career in the National Football League with the Browns, Ravens, Buccaneers and Falcons, he had graduated on time with a degree in business and had enjoyed an enriching college experience. He was a disciplined student and made friendships which he treasures today. Many of them drop by the pre-game tailgate show to speak to him, recalling a memorable game when he threw for record yards, admiring the thunder in his right arm.
He remains a fan of all things Georgia. Were it not for the mute button on his microphone, the listening audience might hear him choke up sometime—he gets that emotional.
It almost happened in Indianapolis. He had prepared himself on what he wanted to say should the Dawgs win. When it was obvious that Georgia was going to claim victory, he was enjoying the moment until he saw Stetson Bennett crying following Kelee Ringo’s return of an Alabama touchdown to seal victory.
Before he said anything, he hit the mute button and cried along with Stetson, then composed himself and sounded forth his thoughts on Georgia’s resounding victory. All who know him, are aware that if anybody has “Damn Good Dawg” credentials, it is Eric Zeier.