ATHENS — David Pollack was nominated for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday. The announcement that he has been voted in will come on Jan. 7.
At least it should.
There are no guarantees about these things, ever. Obviously there are always great players in line for every Hall of Fame class, otherwise they wouldn’t be considered Hall of Fame performers. But I saw Pollack play — more importantly, I saw how he played — and I can’t see many of these guys going in before him.
To be clear, these other “guys” were pretty awesome football players.
Quite a few I didn’t realize were not already in the Hall, such as Keith Byars, 1984 Heisman Trophy runner-up from Ohio State, Ray Lewis of Miami, SMU’s Eric Dickerson and Texas quarterback Vince Young, to name a few. In all, there are 82 new candidates on the 2019 ballot from FBS backgrounds, and that’s not including another 132 players and coaches from the divisional ranks.
Again, I’m sure they’re all deserving. None more than Pollack, however.
I didn’t go down the entire list and do an apples-to-apples comparison of all of them. I’m sure a bunch of them were a part of national championship teams, and being named an All-American is a requirement just to be on the ballot.
But very few, if any at all I imagine, are three-time, first-team All-Americans. Pollack is. There actually aren’t many three-time All-Americans in existence. Herschel Walker is the only other one from Georgia.
Georgia’s Claude Felton, who checked with Hillary Jeffries of the National Football Foundation, said there are 49 three-time All-Americans currently in the Hall of Fame. Most of them, he guessed, were from before 1960.
Pollack, of course, played for Georgia from 2001-04. He came to Athens from Snellville and Shiloh High as a fullback. The Bulldogs moved him to defensive end. The rest is history.
Pollack left for the NFL as the most decorated defensive player in UGA history. In addition to the three first-team All-America awards, Pollack won the Ted Hendricks Award as the best defensive end in 2003 and 2004, and he also claimed the Lombardi (nation’s top lineman), Bednarik (top defensive player) and Lott (impact defensive player) awards in 2004. That was the same season he was named SEC Player of the Year by the league’s coaches. He left with the school record for career sacks with 36, which still stands.
You may recall, he also made some significant plays. His sack-strip-interception to beat South Carolina will forever live in Georgia lore. And it goes way beyond that. Every time the Bulldogs needed a defensive play when they were on that run from 2002-04, it seemed that Pollack came through.
But it was more than that. Pollack won most of his 1-on-1 battles on the defensive line, but there were countless times where he simply held his ground and did his job. And that’s saying something about a converted fullback who at the height of his career was listed at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds. That’s at a position that averages 6-5, 270 and faces 300-plus-pound tackles.
That was the thing about Pollack. He willed himself into being a great defensive end. Yes, he was quicker off the ball than almost anybody ever, but he built himself into a defensive lineman in the weight room and on the field. I remember when I was covering him, he’d walk around campus with a gallon of water all the time, because he said he’d never be caught dehydrated for practice or a game. Jon Fabris, his position coach at Georgia, said Pollack would study film for hours looking for the tendencies and weaknesses of whomever he’d be facing that week.
A lot of Georgia fans, certainly the younger set, place Pollack on the Mount Rushmore of all-time Bulldogs, alongside Walker, Charley Trippi and Frank Sinkwich (insert your choice here). That’s an argument we can wage for hours if not days. Even just choosing Pollack over Bill Stanfill as a defensive end is not automatic for me.
But, for me at least, there is no argument over whether Pollack belongs in the Hall of the Fame. I’m sure you wouldn’t get an argument to the contrary from anyone else either. He’ll be inducted eventually. And that’s not even considering the notoriety of his post-football career with ESPN and all the visibility that comes with that. But I think Pollack should be in right now, right away.
The Hall of Fame folks said they don’t keep tabs of how many of their inductees were voted in on the first ballot. Certainly, as I learned Monday, there is a long list of greats who haven’t gotten the call already. Perhaps there is a priority list I’m not aware of among the Hall’s Honors Court, which ultimately makes these decisions.
Having seen Pollack play up close and personal for four years at Georgia, I say there’s no sense in putting off the inevitable.