Editor’s note: This continues a regular feature on DawgNation called “Throwback Thursday.” It offers the chance to revisit the recruiting stories of former UGA greats. The last few installments were on talented tailback Robert Edwards from Washington County in Sandersville, big-play QB DJ Shockley from North Clayton and 1985 Florida game hero Keith Henderson.
Ask UGA football great Tim Worley about his recruiting. Ask how he became a Dawg. Then sit back and listen. The man can still go the distance.
He won’t confirm or deny whether or not a verbal altercation between rival recruiters happened anywhere near his front door, but that’s okay.
Worley can spin a tale about driving a school bus for $400 per week and how Barry Switzer hopped on board to recruit him along his daily route. (Wonder how the NCAA might interpret that face-to-face contact now?)
The Lumberton, N.C. native also said UGA has future coach Jim Donnan to thank for pointing him to play Between the Hedges. UGA was also his fourth choice late in the game and was actually his worst official visit. Yet somehow the Bulldogs still managed to sign him in the end.
That’s a lot for one Throwback Thursday, huh?
“Oklahoma was my number one choice,” Worley said. “Barry Switzer paid a lot of visits to my hometown and I fell in love with the University of Oklahoma.”
The Sooners had just come off a national championship. Switzer’s pitch was for him to be the next Marcus Dupree. If he signed, Switzer would ditch his beloved “Wishbone” offense and go back to the I-formation. Donnan was the lead recruiter on Worley.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder also ran track and was ripping off 10.35 second times in the 100. He was Boomer Sooner all the way. Until.
“When Barry Switzer came and had an official visit at my parent’s house with my Mom and Dad he put his boots on my mother’s table,” Worley said. “That canceled the whole deal with Oklahoma.”
Those boots went on his mother’s coffee table. He was tapping on his mother’s table with his boots.
“We heard him out and when everything was done with his presentation my mother looked at me and said ‘You are not going to Oklahoma. That man is very disrespectful’ and that was it for Oklahoma,” Worley said.
It was about a week before Signing Day and he had to find a new team. Clemson was his number two but didn’t make the cut. Florida State was his third choice, but he went on a visit and partnered up with future Seminole great Sammie Smith.
Smith — just like Worley — would also become a first-round NFL draft pick. He was even rated as the top high school running back in the country. Worley wanted to find better odds at being a feature back.
When Oklahoma was crossed off the list, it disappointed Donnan to no end. He knew Worley would flourish in the SEC. Donnan told him if he didn’t go to Oklahoma, then UGA would be the best place for him.
It was about a week after Signing Day when Worley followed his advice.
“Coach Donnan knew what style of running back I was and I kind of took his advice,” Worley said. “He pulled me to the side in the hallway at my high school. There wasn’t anybody around. That was big … On a scale of 1-to-10, I guess I’d say Coach Donnan telling me to go to Georgia was about an 8-out of-a-10 on a scale of how much it affected me to sign with Georgia.”
Worley signed with UGA. but still drove his school bus route that day. That was good money thirty years ago for about 10 hours a week.
Vince Dooley was still the coach at UGA and Worley wanted to run out of the same backfield Herschel Walker in the SEC.
“It was just a lot of fun watching the legendary Herschel Walker run the football on ABC,” Worley said. “I took a lot at that television and said that I could do that, too.”
Steve Greer and Robert Myles were his lead recruiters for UGA. His mother liked Vince Dooley a lot. He was so professional and didn’t put his feet anywhere near her coffee table.
“You would just sit in a room with Coach Dooley and listen to him talk,” Worley said. “You’d hear whatever he had to say and you just wanted to be your best for that man and for Georgia.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.