SAUTEE NACOCHEE — During that storybook season of 1980, many individual characters had opportunities to play a part on our way to the national championship. They were the most unselfish group of players I have ever been around. Each Saturday would have one of my teammates making a play that would change the course and outcome of the game. I believe it was more of an “I will not be the one to let the team down” attitude that permeated our team. We were not willing to ever give up.
Herschel was a freshman and a great player, probably the greatest, but he was injured during the Ole Miss game. The player who finally replaced him that day had what could be called a career day. Carnie Norris, number three on the depth chart, finally got his a chance. He had 15 carries, 150 yards and scored a touchdown. The game was very exciting as we struggled against John Fourcade and the Rebels and finally recovered an onside kick to preserve our fifth victory of the season.
Legendary AJC reporter Furman Bisher’s column on the sports page the next morning was underneath a headline that read “Norris fires Bulldogs by Ole Miss.” I bet there were a lot of people who thought, who is Norris?
Tailback Carnie Norris sophomore from Spartanburg S.C., began the game on the bench and out of sight of the depth chart at Georgia and ended up tailback of the hour in a 28-21 victory over Mississippi, a circumstance totally unanticipated by any of the 60,000 in the house, including Carnie Norris, and his coach Vince Dooley.
Carnie was an all-state, record-setting high school running back in 1978 in South Carolina. He was a sophomore during that 1980 season in a big group of running backs competing with Herschel for the starting job. Carnie continued to have success on the teams of 1981 and ’82, both as a running back and a kick returner. Carnie Norris played and contributed on three of the greatest teams and winning seasons in the history of Georgia football. Not sure where his nickname of “Poochie” came from, but that’s what everyone still calls him.
I recently heard from Carnie after I received the HOF plaque on TV at the Tennessee game. The letter came from Perry Correctional Institute in Pelzer, S.C. It’s the first letter I’ve received from Carnie in a couple of years since his incarceration in a 2008 robbery case. (An appeal in the case was dismissed in 2012.) He wrote the letter to congratulate his old teammate on the College Hall of Fame induction.
“I saw you on TV. You look like you could give Chubb a spell,” Carnie wrote.
Teammates always have a way to point out our imperfections; I weigh 240 while Chubb is, unquestionably, in great shape. In the letter, Carnie also said he has been waiting to be released for over two years now from the state of South Carolina.
“Patience,” he says in the letter, “I will see you in Athens soon.”
That sounds great. Though our lives after college have taken different paths, my teammates will always hold a special place in my life. The many experiences we shared in that Championship year have bonded us all for life, our own band of brothers, so to speak.
So, one day soon, I hope to be sitting in the sunshine and tailgating with my old teammate, Poochie, and reliving memories of that amazing year.
Scott Woerner was an All-American defensive back and kick returner for the Bulldogs who played on the 1980 national championship team. He has been tabbed for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in December in New York City. Woerner took the year off from teaching and coaching to enjoy that experience. He will be writing a weekly diary and sharing remembrances for DawgNation on the way to receiving that honor.