Editor’s Note: Scott Woerner will be the featured speaker Monday night at the Touchdown Club of Athens meeting at Athens Country Club. The All-American defensive back and kick returner for the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship team has been tabbed for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in December. Woerner took the year off from teaching and coaching to enjoy that experience. He wrote this remembrance for DawgNation.
ROAD TO HALL OF FAME
SAUTEE NACOOCHEE — In my car, halfway home after teaching school all day, my cell phone rings. The caller ID says Greg McGarity, UGA athletic director.
“Hey, Greg. How’s it going?” I ask.
“Heard any good news?” he says.
“No. Good news?”
He says, “Call me when you get home,” and hangs up.
A few minutes later, I have basically the same conversation with Loran Smith.
What could he be thinking? I had just finished one of the toughest days ever in my teaching career. Good news? You’ve got to be kidding. Good news?
A little background will help explain. My wife, Marianne, and I live in White County in the middle of nowhere. So, on the afternoon of Jan. 6, I am driving from Cornelia headed home through the mountains, where we are at times like Eddie Albert’s character on Green Acres. We have to hang off the porch to get any cellphone reception. My phone keeps dinging, going in and out of service, voice mail, text. But, understand, this happens sometimes. The phone stays on the seat because I am almost home.
Living in the middle of nowhere also has its advantages. We do have a few animals, 10 cats and my dog Jovi. Cellphones work, sometimes. I park the car and everyone is happy to see me. Feeding time has arrived.
As I approach the porch, there sits a small rectangular cardboard box at my front door. I sit down on the porch petting everyone within reach and pick up the box and open carefully. Inside the box is a freshly painted football and letter from the National Football Foundation.
I’ve been chosen to be inducted into the College Football Hall Of Fame’s Class of 2016. What an honor! The letter said that I should not make this public until the next day. I think to myself that there are only two people I would like to share the news with — my parents. I had lost my mother two weeks earlier, two days before Christmas. Dad’s been gone since 2002. I do believe that they knew long before I ever found out.
I sit there on the porch gazing at the ball, seeing all the faces of my teammates, coaches, and teachers, and I say a big thank you to all. I think of the T-shirts from our 1980 season (TEAM me). I had an opportunity to play on a great team made up of the greatest of teammates at the University of Georgia. I would not be in any Hall of Fame without them.
Marianne will be home from night school soon. I will enjoy sharing with her. She has seen just about every game I have ever played starting at Jonesboro Junior High. When she arrives, we shed a few tears. They’re tears of joy for being selected, but also tears of sadness because we know how much my parents would have enjoyed this moment, how much they sacrificed to give me this opportunity.