Georgia’s football facility upgrade has not peaked, but another milestone development is enjoying brand-spanking-new-status this fall as the Bulldogs are on a move-to-the-head-of-the-class mission to complement elevated recruiting success which should bode well for the Red and Black future.
Actually, you can’t have one without the other, and when you get what you want, you look up and note somebody building something to surpass you. Other schools have doting alumni who are passionate about writing checks to enhance the football program at their alma mater.
The factor that sets the best schools apart is leadership. Everybody identifies Nick Saban as the pacesetter, a well-deserved laurel with a record to confirm his program has been the best at winning championships.
This fall, families of coaches, a few top recruits, staff and Bulldog players got to connect with the new dressing rooms underneath the West stands, all reflecting that a new day in the Bulldog kingdom has arrived. And make no mistake about it, it was the Kirby effect.
An interesting observer with rare credentials showed up which brought about reflection that the Bulldogs are no longer underachieving. When you enjoy success as Georgia did last year, your next objective is to maintain. That is what Alabama, along with a lot of luck, has done.
Davey Pollack, the ESPN broadcaster, who has a defensive rap sheet to match Herschel Walker’s trailblazing offensive resume, was a three-time All-American when he played for Mark Richt. I watched as his curious and intense eyes surveyed the premises in the pre-season and thought about the fact that to fully appreciate the contributions that he and Herschel made, you only have to massage one sterling fact: In the SEC there has been only five schools to produce three-time consensus All-Americans: Alabama (Cornelius Bennett); Tennessee (Bob Suffridge), Ole Miss (Barney Poole), LSU (Tommy Casanova) and Georgia. The Bulldogs are the only SEC team with two three time consensus All-America honorees—Pollack and Herschel Walker.
Charley Trippi, interestingly only made All-American one time in his career, owing to the interruption of World War II. Had Trippi, like every other able-bodied American male, not had his career compromised by a world at war, no doubt he would have been recognized more times by the various All-America selectors.
On the other hand, Trippi, owing to the war, played in four College All-Star games. That is a record that will never be broken, mainly because the game will never be played again. Current fans are not likely to appreciate the impact that the College All-Star game had on the college game.
A sportswriter, Arch Ward, with the Chicago Tribune came up with the idea that each summer, a blue ribbon cast of the best of college players would play the defending National Football League champions. The pros, as you might expect, won more often than not, but the college boys would win a few of the games.
There are some who say that Trippi may have been the greatest football player ever. The legendary Jim Thorpe thought so, calling Trippi “the best football player I ever saw.” Another gridiron legend Red Grange, whom many would vote as the greatest, was as high on Trippi as any man I have ever interviewed. I often went to see Grange at his retirement home in Central Florida in the spring and have in my files a recording of Grange praising Trippi.
There is a point to be taken from all this. Georgia is a place where there is as much upside when it comes to recruiting as any place in the country. The talent pool is deep and wide. While, the facility upgrade lacks a couple of elements–what is underway and has been accomplished signals that UGA expects, under Kirby (like Herschel, only first name is needed) to compete with the best.
With the par excellence ratings that Georgia’s “Smart” staff is getting, you can trumpet the notion that there could be another Dawg to join the exclusive consensus three-time All-America Club. That is why the cogent head coach has been preaching the need for exclusive facilities since he signed on to lead the Bulldog program.