What’s your all-time favorite Bulldogs memory?
Someone posed that question to me a while back and, while trying to pick a favorite from my many favorite UGA memories, I asked other fans to take on the same challenge.
Most found it’s not easy to pick just one favorite memory, especially if you’re a lifelong Dawgs fan. “You’ve opened up a deep well of nostalgia on this one, Bill!” said Jason Hasty, UGA athletics history specialist at the Hargrett Library in Athens.
Owen Scott, a friend of mine since we were kindergarteners in Athens, couldn’t narrow it down to just one memory. Owen’s three favorites: witnessing the famous flea-flicker play in the stunning upset over top-ranked Alabama at Sanford Stadium in 1965; watching on TV “in the company of a grad school friend with a degree from UF” as Georgia defeated Florida via the famous “Run Lindsay” TD catch; and attending UGA-Ole Miss in Oxford in 1981 and getting to see Herschel Walker rack up 265 yards.
Several fans who did manage to winnow it down to one memory agreed with Steve Oney, who zeroed in on the scoring drive engineered by quarterback Andy Johnson against Tech at Grant Field in 1971 before a Thanksgiving night national television audience, culminating with Jimmy Poulos going over the top for the TD.
In addition to that memory, Scott Peacocke also mentioned “dramatic comeback wins vs. the Gators in ’74, ’75, ’76; the ’76 Bama game; and certainly the 1978 thriller vs. Tech. There have been many great memories since then, but it’s hard to overcome the nostalgia factor of my early years as a fan.”
Also picking the ’65 win over Bama was Paul Johnson: “The stadium still had the old wooden benches and the person behind us got so excited and jumped up and down so hard that the bleacher broke.”
Of course, it wasn’t actually the flea-flicker that won the game. That play, on which Pat Hodgson caught a pass and lateralled to Bob Taylor, who ran for the score, brought Georgia to within 1 point of the Tide, but “Hodgson also caught the 2-point conversion pass after Vince Dooley decided that a 17-17 moral victory wouldn’t cut it,” Ben Anderson noted.
And, naturally, the Buck Belue-to-Lindsay Scott pass against Florida in 1980 drew several other mentions. Interestingly, Helen Castronis missed that play, but remembers “coming out of the bathroom where I was hiding in Jacksonville … to find out we had scored. I had mostly given up at that point … it was hard to tell from the cheers who had done what.”
Joel Provano said his favorite memory is “a game I didn’t even see,” the 1976 win over Alabama. “I have never seen an atmosphere in Athens like that before or since. The town was just crazy,” Joel remembered. He was unable to score a ticket, but “I did manage to see about 10 minutes of the first quarter by climbing on top of the concession stand under the bridge with about 10 other fans before being removed by police. After that, I had to listen to Munson.”
The Dogs won 21-0 and “Athens went absolutely bonkers,” Joel recalled. “The party lasted all night and into the next morning. Georgia would lose to Ole Miss and suffer a horrible loss to Pitt in the Sugar Bowl [later that season], but, that day, everything was perfect. I will never forget it.”
In a similar vein, Aaron Jones remembers when Georgia upset No. 6-ranked LSU 28-27 in Baton Rouge behind the passing of Quincy Carter in 1998. “That was the most exciting atmosphere I’ve ever been in for a game.”
And, Christy Salter’s favorite memory is Georgia fans lighting up Notre Dame’s stadium at the beginning of the fourth quarter in 2017, “with my grown son standing next to me. Mom-son road trip.”
Some fans have unique favorite memories. Hasty said his “would be an oral history of the ’81 Sugar Bowl that I moderated with Vince Dooley, Frank Ros, and Jack Sweeney of Notre Dame as panelists in September 2017. Sitting in an almost empty room with two of the key players from that game and the man who built and coached the team that got us there, listening to them trade stories, laugh, reminisce, and relive that one game, was a priceless experience and one that I, as a lifelong fan, will treasure. I can’t think of much more that could top that.”
Sravanthi Meka’s favorite memory is from 2013, when “they offered donors who contributed to all three funds — football, men’s basketball and gymnastics (before the baseball one began) to come paint the G Friday before the first home game.” She was one of only 40 donors who gave to all three funds, and she got to man one of the rollers with the black paint at the center of the field.
Some favorite memories in my family involve aspects of game day apart from the game itself. My brother Jonathan remembered “having James Brown dance on my back during the Redcoat half time show.” (Brown’s dancing nearly collapsed the stage set up for him at midfield, and my brother Jon was one of the Redcoats under the stage, bracing it.)
And, my wife Leslie recalled when hundreds of fans used to watch the games from the railroad tracks before stadium expansion, “and when a train would come through, they would have to scatter while it went past.”
Both Bill Bryant and Lee Eidson said their favorite memories involved playing on the field at Sanford Stadium — but not for UGA. They were among a couple of generations of Athens YMCA boys who got to play exhibitions there before Georgia games in the 1950s and ’60s.
Bryant remembers “running to the west end zone on a field that seemed bigger than Athens. Early arrivals cheered when I crossed the goal line. We later ate our sack lunches outside the Georgia dressing room and watched the game — still dressed in our uniforms — from our end zone seats.”
Bryant also has a fond memory of attending the first basketball game ever in what’s now known as Stegeman Coliseum, “when no one seemed to know whether to wash our hands or pee in the fancy contraptions in the middle of the men’s rooms.”
Speaking of the Coliseum, Dan Pelletier recalled around age 10 “sitting on the rafters of the Coliseum … and watching football practice. Then [equipment manager] Squab Jones coming and checking me out.” Dan ended up “being escorted to the practice field to watch up close.”
Jeff Dantzler, who hosts the pre-game call-in show with legendary Georgia kicker Kevin Butler, rattled off a long list of favorite memories from football, baseball and tennis. When I asked him if he could pick just one, he went for the 44-7 win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta in1981, “with legendary Bulldogs Walker, Scott, Belue and Butler having iconic afternoons.”
Longtime sportscaster Chuck Dowdle, who handles the sideline reports during Georgia football broadcasts, said his favorite memory is from 2001, and “my first flight on the team charter to Jacksonville. … The team, the coaches, some members of the staff and broadcast crew were riding in the coach section. From my aisle seat, I could lean over and peer up the aisle toward first class.” He spotted Dooley and his wife Barbara, and other dignitaries, “all certainly entitled to the additional leg room. And the most important member of the traveling party, but the least in need of the generous leg room …Uga VI! His own first-class seat … I had to laugh!”
A more recent favorite memory came from Greg Bluestein, who normally covers politics for the AJC. He cited the College Football Playoff Rose Bowl double-overtime victory over Oklahoma on Jan. 1, 2018. “I don’t think any Dawg fan in Pasadena that day ever will forget it,” he said. And making it even more special for Bluestein was that he was on the sideline, “helping our photographers and handing out the victory AJC editions” to players after the game.
Darrell Huckaby’s top memory also is from Pasadena, “sitting together with all three of my kids, their spouses, and my lovely wife, Lisa. … My son unfurled a big Georgia flag that I didn’t know he had, and we just reveled in the glory. That was an unbelievably ecstatic moment.”
Another family-oriented story came from Mahla Edwards Swinford, who remembered: “as Mom was faculty, we had season tickets, and I went to all the home games from the age of 12.” She thinks she was in 7th grade when she saw Athens’ own Fran Tarkenton throw a pass to win the Auburn-Georgia game in 1959 and win the SEC. “I had a great view — standing at the field gate just past the goal post. The stadium exploded when we won! Then my Dad took me to ring the bell!”
Keith Parnell recalled that, in 1962, for his 9th birthday, “my grandfather, who raised me, took me to see Georgia vs. FSU. We lost 18-0, but it was my first game ever and I remember … how special it was then and now.”
Bill Russell remembered at UGA “having my grandparents (he was the captain of the boxing team his senior year) show me the place where they first met.”
Not all the sports memories cited were of football. Tom Hodgson said his “best Bulldog memory was learning the story of [longtime UGA track coach] Spec Towns from my father. He really built up the importance of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and how [U.S. track stars] Towns and Jesse Owens put a splinter in Hitler’s eye. Towns set the Olympic record that year and should be considered one of the finest Bulldogs ever on a global stage.”
Other alums’ favorite memories have nothing at all to do with sports. Several folks, including Deborah Blum, remember when UGA set the world record for the number of streakers in 1974. Randi Kaye Rehm said her most enduring memory of UGA “is sitting in the Bulldog Room playing the jukebox with friends between classes, particularly in 1973. To this day, hearing the songs ‘Touch Me in the Morning,’ ‘Angie’ and ‘Frankenstein’ takes me right back to that time.”
Melita Easters’ favorite memory is a lecture by famed writer Tom Wolfe at Memorial Hall. And Mike Webb remembers, as a journalism student, interviewing singer Harry Chapin over coffee and cigarettes at the Holiday Inn in Athens.
As for my own favorite memory? Well, I’ve always said the 1965 flea-flicker is my favorite play, though Sony Michel scoring the OT touchdown to beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl now rivals it.
I think my favorite non-play memory is former player David Jacobs running out on the field for Senior Day in 2002 after he’d suffered a stroke the previous season, and the entire stadium standing and cheering. Many people had tears in their eyes (and, yes, I was one of them).
But, in the end, I think my brother Tim topped those with a simple: “Going to football games with Pop.”
Yeah, that was the best.