ATHENS — On Monday, Scott Woerner was just a regular old New York City tourist. On Tuesday, he will be enshrined for perpetuity in the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.
Georgia’s star defensive back and kick returner from the 1980 national championship team is one of 14 players and two coaches to have been chosen for induction in the Class of 2016. They’ll be introduced at a luncheon at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria hotel on Tuesday, then feted at a black-tie dinner Tuesday night. The ceremonies will be streamed live on ESPN3.
But first, there were sites to be seen. Since Sunday, Woerner, his wife Marianne, his brother and sister and some nieces and nephews have been just a few among the horde of folks making their way through Saks Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, Battery Park, Grand Central Station and all the other must-see destinations in America’s largest city.
“(Monday) was our real get-out-and-go day,” said Woerner, speaking by phone from the new World Trade Center. “We’ve got the day planned out. … I’m just amazed. This place is packed with folks. Oh my gosh, you couldn’t stir them with a stick. You just kind of move with the people. If you were claustrophobic you’d be in trouble. It’s that crowded.”
The biggest perk of a Hall of Fame induction is accommodations in the Waldorf, where rooms start at about $600 a night this time of year. Woerner and his wife shared brunch there Monday morning, which cost them about half that.
“Is that not unbelievable?” Woerner said with a laugh. “I’ve seen some decadence in Europe in some of their hotels but, good, God almighty, it’s nothing like this. I told the lady at the hotel, this is a long way for a boy from North Georgia. It’s eye-opening for a lot of folks who haven’t been around that kind of thing.”
Sautee Nachoochee, up in White County, is where the Woerners call home now. But he’s originally from Baytown, Texas, came to Georgia by way of Jonesboro as a quarterback and the state’s top prospect, and played in the NFL and USFL after graduating in 1981. After retiring from football, Woerner has worked as a teacher, coach and physical education instructor, mainly in elementary and middle school, his demographic of his choice.
DawgNation has been publishing a weekly diary of Woerner’s adventures this fall called “Road to the Hall of Fame.” You can find his latest entry and links to his previous ones HERE.
As one might imagine, Woerner was very reflective of that fanciful four-year window at UGA that brought him to this place at this this time. In addition to his immediate family — brothers Kent and Clay, sister Tammy and their children — about a dozen of his former UGA teammates were coming into town for Tuesday’s ceremonies. Among them will be Robert Miles, Patrick Shea, Hugh Nall, Chris Welton, Frank Ros, Tim Morrison and Mike Fisher.
“An excellent crowd,” Woerner said. “All my boys.”
Of course, his coach, Vince Dooley, also will be in attendance. Dooley, a former NFF board member and Hall of Fame inductee himself, was instrumental in getting Woerner nominated.
“Without a doubt, the reason I’m in Hall of Fame is Vince Dooley,” Woerner said. “He went to bat for me. How do you write a thank-you note for that? I’ve tried my dangdest, a couple times. He’s a wonderful man.”
Woerner’s credentials stand on their own, however. For his career, he recorded 147 tackles and 13 interceptions and also tallied numerous school records for returns. Woerner established season records for most punt return yards (488), average punt return yards (15.7), most return yards (720), as well as career marks for punt return yards (1,077), total returns (123) and total return yards (1,916). He still holds the marks for season punt return yards and average per return, while his other marks stood for decades.
He’s best known for almost singlehandedly beating Clemson in 1980. Woerner had a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 98-yard interception return to the Clemson 2-yard line to set up another score in the 20-16 victory. Woerner also has been inducted into UGA Athletic Association Circle of Honor (2003), the state of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (2014), and the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame (2016).
Woerner is the 13th former Georgia player elected to the Hall of Fame. He joins Bob McWhorter (inducted in 1954), Frank Sinkwich (’54), Charley Trippi (’59), Vernon”Catfish” Smith (’79), Bill Hartman (’84), Fran Tarkenton (’87), Bill Stanfill (’98), Herschel Walker (’99), Terry Hoage (2000), Kevin Butler (’01), John Rauch (’03) and Jake Scott (’11). In addition to Dooley, Glenn “Pop” Warner (1951), Wally Butts (’97) and Jim Donnan (2009) are in this Hall.