SAUTEE NACOOCHEE — The fact that we are discussing royalty in Athens, Ga., may seem a little strange. The only royalty we might have considered in Athens would be the legendary Charley Trippi and his beautiful wife Peggy as they do look majestic attending all the home games. But for those of you old may remember when Prince Charles came to the Classic City, I do apologize for reminding you of the nightmare of what was supposed to be a football game.
I have no Idea how it all originated that the Prince of Wales would attend the Kentucky-Georgia game in Athens, Ga., in the fall of 1977, my freshman season. Everyone got excited about the Prince being at the game, especially the Kentucky football team. I set the single-game kickoff return record that day with 190 yards on six returns. That’s not a record for which one wants to be remembered. What does that tell you knowledgeable football fans? Yes, the Kentucky team kicked off a lot that day due to the fact they beat our defense into submission.
Kentucky was running the T-formation with a quarterback named Derrick Ramsey, the first real running QB before Cam Newton. The year of 1977 was a difficult season as a freshman player. I hate losing. Now that I am 57, I know for a fact that defeats and failures teach us more about ourselves than winning games. A loss only intensifies one’s desire to find the skills, knowledge and desire to be successful (or win).
As I have said before, there were 25 other freshmen walking the same path with me in 1977. The Kentucky game that year was not just a capitulation of one team, but a complete domination by the other. Now I was treated badly in high school, getting pounded playing quarterback, but I was now playing cornerback in ’77. Corners are supposed to stop passes, not the Green Bay sweep. I have no idea if film exists from that game, but the Kentucky offense gave a clinic on the dive, the power and the sweep. All the plays seemed to come from the straight T-formation. Did the Wildcats ever throw the ball? Maybe, but that day it seemed like a runaway stampede of bowling balls every play. We lost 33-0 that day in front of royalty — and in a royal way.
The “Wonderdogs of 1978,” as we came to be known the next year, went to Lexington on a very cold night with the temperature in the 20s and won an amazing game. The ‘78 Wonderdogs were evidence of what could happen if you never gave up. That season had several games that everyone witnessed and wondered how we won them. My dear friend and teammate Rex Robinson, our All-American kicker from 1980, is responsible for several nail-biting kicks. Just like the 29-yard one Rex kicked that night and saved us at the end for a 17-16 win against the Wildcats. I have always said — and Rex knows how I feel about kickers; I hate kicker, until you need one — as an offensive or defensive player, you fight, sweat, and bleed. Then, a guy comes in the game, his uniform all clean and neat and — “whoop” — you lose or win. That night in Lexington, I was glad Rex was on our side.
I will say this about the 1978 Wonderdogs, I think our great Larry Munson enjoyed that year as much as we did because there were so many thrilling endings. We were losing at Kentucky in 1978 by 16 points at halftime, then much like this year’s ending, drove down and won with a 29-yarder with about three seconds left.
In the 1979 and 1980 games, although they seemed lackluster, we ended up shutting down the Cats down. In 1980, we went up there and did battle in the first half only leading by 13. Field goals of 50 yards and 47 yards by Rex were all the offense could generate besides points coming on a Kentucky turnover. The Kentucky defense was determined to shut down Herschel Walker, and they did a good job. This only left other characters from the list of memorable all-stars during the ‘80 season to step up and shine. Buck Belue had a big day throwing and running the football. Jimmy Womack had several big pass receptions and running plays on what again was a freezing night in Lexington. The big play of the night, though, came from Anthony (Amp) Arnold on the last touchdown, a 91-yard pass play from Buck. Amp was an extremely talented player at Georgia, and another special member of that senior class in 1980. The defense that night had pitched a shutout. Erk Russell’s philosophy of defense was if they don’t score, you don’t lose! Statistics from that night show our starting secondary each had an interception. This was probably due to the fact that our guys up front stuffed the run against that T-formation offense Kentucky was running for the fourth year in a row. There are too many guys to name across the defensive front that played wide open that night, and I mean crazy! Weyman Sellers, my high school coach and captain of the ‘49 Georgia team, called it “reckless abandon,” a complete disregard for personal safety. I still see Eddie Weaver flying through the air to make a tackle. While watching my old game tapes from 1980, I forgot how we picked each other up, patted each other on the head and encouraged each other to go do it again. We were a TEAM!
Scott Woerner was an All-American defensive back and kick returner for the Bulldogs and 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 for DawgNation.com in honor of that special occasion.