ROAD TO THE HALL OF FAME
SAUTEE NACOOCHEE — Teams win and lose for a variety of reasons: mistakes made, poor effort, lack of cooperation, and at times, just plain luck (bad and good).
I played on losing teams and on winning teams under coach Vince Dooley while at Georgia. The freshman class that I entered with endured the season of 1977. We went 5-6. I was too young to truly grasp the importance and necessity of leadership on a football team. There was a void left by the 1976 SEC champions, a senior-led team.
This Bulldog team of 2016 is very young. Faces of youth dot the lineup. We seem to forget that until they take off the helmet and uniform. Coach Kirby Smart has said in many interviews that he is looking for some leaders. Someone will step up; they always do. We did, too — in time. The freshman class of ’77 that had endured Coach Dooley’s only losing season would turn out to be the senior leadership that produced a perfect season in 1980.
The championship season of really began in the spring with a football party thrown after spring practice had been completed. The foundation was laid during the summer, working off the price of a very special university hog. Erk Russell called it the “Year of the Pig.” Probably is still the dumbest thing we ever did considering we were bunch of relatively smart, educated people. Oh, but what a great story!
I would not trade that summer of memories and resulting relationships for all the money in the world. There were five of us doing penance for taking and killing and cooking an experimental breeding sow from the agricultural school out on South Milledge Avenue. Why? We did not think!
The pens were full of pigs in all sizes, and we figured they would never notice one missing. See, we were having our annual spring football party and needed something to feed the team. Well, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. The pig was taken at midnight, dispatched with a bow and arrow. The special pig was grilled for many hours on a chain link fence gate by Chef Nat Hudson. The evidence of his cooking expertise was that there was nothing left except for the head.
Now, this is where the story takes a unfortunate turn. A not-so-bright group of freshmen took that pig head back to campus and dropped it off at Brumby Hall, a girls dormitory. Yes, at that point, we were busted!! As it turned out, this pig was special, apparently steroid-laden, and the team had eaten the whole thing. Well, except for the head. Of course, the gentleman running the ag school at the time thought the pig was important.
Coach Dooley, who had to go bat for us, probably lost his taste for barbecue that day. You see, we could have asked any pig farmer in the state of Georgia for a pig to feed the team during the party. They probably would have said “yes, and how big would you like it?” How do you think we acquired all the libations for the party? We asked.
So we were summoned to a meeting with Coach Dooley concerning the pig. He explained in clear and simple terms that the five of us would lose our scholarships for the summer. In addition, we would attend summer school each morning, work for the university each afternoon, and then do summer workout with strength coach John Kasay after work. (Important side note: The year 1980 was the hottest summer on record, 18 days over 100 degrees).
All of us were rising seniors: Nat Hudson, Hugh Nall, Frank Ros, Chris Welton, and me. The summer before our senior year of college should be memorable, and it certainly turned out to be the summer of our lives, just not in the way we had dreamed. None of us had any money or a job since we were attending classes in the morning, and working for the university in afternoon. Reporting each day after lunch to our University foreman, a guy named Ray, the work was always met with some skepticism. We never knew what work the day would involve. Sanford Stadium was getting the prescription turf installed that summer, and a few days were spent laying sod on the field that we would play on in the fall. A couple of weeks were spent painting the seats and bleachers in the old baseball stadium.
Our largest painting job that summer, though, was the old cinderblock wall that surrounded the football practice fields. The brick wall was about 6 feet high, and that old dry cinderblock sucked up paint like football players did free beer. (Another side note: It was legal to drink at age 18 in 1980). The five of us had spent days rolling and slopping paint on the wall, which seemed to be longer than the Great Wall of China. The heat was unbearable. Everyday was new heat record, another day over 100.
Then, one day, Coach Dooley drove up in his silver Lincoln with a blacktop. He had a driver, so he rode in the back. We saw the rear window roll down, so we all stopped and looked at Vince’s head sticking out of his air-conditioned Lincoln. He simply said, “looks like it needs another coat.” His head disappears back inside, the window powers back up, and off he goes.
Now the next five minutes were spent in such a way I am embarrassed to say, but everyone survived, although I do think Hudson left for the day. The wall was painted battleship grey twice inside and out before the summer’s end. We survived the summer and ended up in the best shape of our lives. The five of us, along with 20 of our senior teammates, ended up leading our team to a perfect season and a national championship.
Coach Mark Richt had that wall torn down a few years ago, and he and I had words concerning the significance of the wall and the relationship with the 1980 season. The “Pig Five” each have a commemorative cinderblock from that wall, personally signed by Vince with the words: “Looks like it needs another coat.” Pictures of that 1980 season now surround that brick at my home, and every time I drive down Milledge Avenue headed south, I think of all those pens full of pigs and kind of get a taste for pork barbecue.
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 in honor of that special occasion.