BOGART – Pat Hodgson, the centerpiece of the Moore-to-Hodgson-to-Taylor-Glory touchdown pass in 1965, is getting about gingerly these days — owning to ankle surgery. It hasn’t diminished his status as an engaging raconteur, from his days in Athens to his multiple NFL affiliations.
His NFL coaching stops included San Diego, New York (Giants), Pittsburgh and New York, the last time in the Big Apple with the Jets. He spent one year as a receiver with the Washington Redskins. But he will be best remembered for his participation in the flea flicker.
On that September day in 1965, defending national champion, Alabama, came to town. Also on hand were Jim Simpson (play-by-play) and Bud Wilkinson (color), representing NBC. That was the first network televised game between the hedges.
That Alabama was favored came as no surprise. The Tide were coached by the legend of Tuscaloosa, Bear Bryant, who had enjoyed years of seasoned recruiting. Georgia had a second-year coach named Vince Dooley, who was fielding an upstart team, which had surprised the SEC with seven wins the year before, including a bowl win over Donny Anderson and Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl.
With time running out and hopes fading, Kirby Moore threw a “dying duck” pass to a button-hooking Hodgson, who caught the pass and shoveled it back to a sprinting Bob Taylor, who raced past the Alabama defense on a 73-yard play that bought the Bulldogs within a point of the visiting team.
Dooley called timeout, huddled with the offensive coaches, principally his brother, Bill, the offensive coordinator. It didn’t take long for them to make up their minds. They would attempt a 2-point conversion.
By that time, Wilkinson, the former Oklahoma coach, was on the field to prepare to interview the winning coach and was taken with Dooley’s coaching demeanor and aplomb. Dooley told Wilkinson, “We’re going for 2.” Wilkinson gushed, “We’ve got to.”
In addition to recalling that play over lunch at the Georgia Club with Robert Wall earlier this week, Hodgson offered colorful and insightful commentary about his two-plus decades in the NFL.
In 1977, he had moved to Texas Tech for a coaching opportunity with Rex Dockery, but a funny thing happened on the way to Lubbock before he had unpacked his bags. He got a call from Ray Perkins (offensive coordinator of the Chargers), offering him a job on behalf of Tommy Prothro at San Diego.
Prothro got fired early in the season. Don Coryell was hired, and at the end of the year, Perkins had become the head coach of the New York Giants.
Perkins hired Hodgson to coach the wide receivers, but before he left for New York, Coryell asked Hodgson to hang around for a week and work with his new wide receiver coach and bring him up to date on the Chargers offense and personnel. That coach happened to be Joe Gibbs.
Then Hodgson gets a call from Bill Parcells, with whom he worked at Florida State. Parcells was at the Air Force Academy and had NFL ambitions. Hodgson recommended Parcels to Perkins. You know the rest of the story.
Hodgson later coached with the Pittsburgh Steelers but went back to New York when Parcells took the Jets job in 1996. Hodgson spent 12 years working with Bill Belichick and is not the least surprised at the success of the Patriots coach.
When David Andrews finished his last year at Georgia, he had a conversation with Hodgson and was depressed. It was apparent that he would not be invited to the combine. Hodgson offered him, “keep your chin up” advice, telling Andrews not to worry; that he would be able to land somewhere as a free agent.
Hodgson then called his friend, whose nickname is, “Doom.” He told Belichick that he should give the graduating Bulldogs star a “close look.” Belichick took the advice of his old friend and was immediately impressed. After the second mini-camp, Hodgson got a text form his old buddy. “Thanks. This kid (Andrews) is going to be my starting center.”
Hodgson is not given to holding court, but he has limitless stories that bring about two-hour lunches and leaving his audience wanting more. Even though I have experienced such outings for years, every gathering seems to bring about more insightful banter. Like Robert Wall, I am ready for the next lunch.