‘The Scintillating Sicilian,’ Charley Trippi was amazing, was a winner, was a champion…what an athlete…what a Bulldog…what a life

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‘The Scintillating Sicilian,’ Charley Trippi was amazing, was a winner, was a champion…what an athlete…what a Bulldog…what a life

University of Georgia’s halfback and team captain Charles Trippi is shown as he works out with the team in Athens, Ga., Sept. 5, 1946. (AP Photo/Rudolph Faircloth)

Charley Trippi is one of the most dynamic athletes the world has ever seen and a legendary all-time great Georgia Bulldog.

Just two months shy of his 101st birthday, the iconic sporting superhero from the 1940s and 1950s passed away on October 19, 2022 here in Athens at the age of 100.





Born December 14, 1921 in Pittstown, Pennsylvania, Charles Louis Trippi was destined for greatness. Emerging from the famed fertile football fields of talent-rich Pennsylvania, it was sports that kept Trippi from the rigors facing coal miners and into a life of greatness, fame and accolades.

He found his way to Athens with the help of one of Georgia’s first famous gridiron standouts. Harold Ketron, who was an All-Southern standout in Athens at the turn of the century from 1901-1903, owned a Coca Cola bottling plant in nearby Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He was also a high school football official, and after witnessing Trippi’s exploits for undefeated Pittstown, Ketron got word to Wally Butts that there was a future star his alma mater badly needed.

Freshmen weren’t eligible in the early 1940s, but Trippi made a name for himself on the Bulldogs freshman team while Frank Sinkwich was leading Georgia’s 1941 team to a 9-1-1 record and the Orange Bowl Championship.





Sinkwich, who came to Georgia from Youngstown, Ohio, won the Heisman Trophy in 1942 while leading the Bulldogs to the consensus National Championship. His understudy Trippi was also bursting onto the scene, these two forming one of the most talented and successful gridiron tandems in college football history.

In a 75-0 rout of Florida, Trippi accounted for four touchdowns and Georgia ascended to No. 1 in the national polls. The following week, the Bulldogs were upset by Auburn. But led by Sinkwich and Trippi, Georgia would rebound and secure two of the most significant victories in program annals.

Trippi raced for an 87-yard touchdown run Between the Hedges, the big play in a 34-0 victory for the fifth-ranked Bulldogs over the undefeated second ranked Yellow Jackets from the Flats. That win clinched Georgia’s first ever Southeastern Conference title and a berth in the Rose Bowl against the UCLA Bruins.

With Sinkwich hobbled by an injured ankle, Trippi stepped into a leading role and had a spectacular performance on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. Over 93,000 fans witnessed Trippi’s exploits and the Bulldogs 9-0 victory over UCLA. He was retroactively in 1953 named the game’s Most Valuable Player on the strength of his 25-carry, 130-yard rushing performance and excellent defensive play. Georgia broke a scoreless tie in the fourth quarter when Red Boyd blocked a Bruins punt for a safety. Sinkwich would then punch in a touchdown and the Bulldogs, on the heels of the Rose Bowl triumph were the consensus national champions, voted No. 1 in six different polls.

Like so many American heroes, Trippi served the United States of America in the Army Air Force.

Following the Allied victory and surrender of the Empire of Japan, Trippi returned to Georgia to play for the Bulldogs midway through the 1945 season. Following a pair of losses, Trippi and the Bulldogs would steamroll through the second half of the season, highlighted by a 34-0 win over Florida, 35-0 blanking of Auburn and 33-0 dominating of Tech in Atlanta. Against the Gators, Trippi rushed for a school-record 239 yards, a record that stood until Herschel Walker broke it against Vanderbilt with 283 yards in 1980.

In the Oil Bowl on New Year’s Day 1946, Georgia defeated Tulsa 20-6 and Trippi was the Most Valuable Player. He threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to John Donaldson to give the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead, and then scored on a spectacular field-reversing 68-yard punt return in which he ran over a pair of Tulsa players.

Trippi was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, but chose to return for one final season in Athens, and the scene was set for another season to remember.

In the spring of 1946, Trippi batted an astounding.464 for the Georgia baseball team. That autumn, Trippi, voted the Bulldogs team captain, won the Maxwell Award, was Heisman Trophy runner-up to Army’s Mr. Outside Glenn Davis, unanimous first-team All-American and SEC Player of the Year.

Teaming with fellow future College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Rauch, the Bulldogs capped the 1946 season with a 20-10 victory over North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl to finish a perfect 11-0, winning every game by at least 10 points. Trippi threw a Sugar Bowl record 67-yard touchdown pass – a mark that stood for a half century – to Dan Edwards to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.

The SEC champion Bulldogs were voted No. 1 in the Williamson Poll. Notre Dame and Army played to a famous 0-0 tie and got a majority of the top votes.

The following summer, playing for the Atlanta Crackers, Trippi led the Southern Association in batting. The New York Yankees badly wanted Trippi, seeing him as the perfect eventual successor to the Yankee Clipper, Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio. That honor would go to Mickey Mantle.

Trippi’s heart was a little more in football.

In 1947, he was Rookie of the Year, and led the Chicago Cardinals to the NFL Championship. In the 28-21 win over Philadelphia in the NFL Championship Game, Trippi scored the first touchdown on a 44-yard run. He gave the Cardinals a 21-7 lead on a 75 yard punt return.

A member of the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame, Trippi was a league-leading, record-breaker. He chalked up a slew of yards rushing, passing and receiving – going for over 1,000 in all three categories in his NFL career. Trippi scored touchdowns on runs, receptions, interception returns and punt returns and threw for TDs. He was also an excellent punter.

The legendary Bulldog icon Dan Magill, who nicknamed him “The Scintillating Sicilian,” told me Trippi was every bit as great a safety as he was an offensive juggernaut. In a 14-0 win over Alabama in 1946, the Crimson Tide blocked a Bulldog third down punt. Trippi would wrestle the ball back from the Tide, and Georgia retained possession. He boomed the next punt and the shutout stood.

This column could be an encyclopedia rejoicing in his exploits.

He was amazing.

He was a winner.

He was a champion.

What an athlete.

What a Bulldog.

What a life.





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