SAUTEE NACOOCHEE — This Bulldog is ready for NYC, but is NYC ready for me?
The time has passed quickly since I first learned of my induction into the College Football Hall of Fame back on January 6 of this year. It was a difficult time for me having just lost my mother two weeks before the announcement. Yes, it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to share the news and to have shown her the special football sent from National Football Foundation.
The year progressed, and I was having a great time visiting and speaking to the Bulldog Nation around the state. Then life again got in the way with the news my younger sister Christi had colon cancer. My sweet sister lost her battle with this horrible disease while I was attending the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville. People, please go get a checkup; early detection makes all the difference in the world.
Now, I know for sure that my little sister would be extremely upset with me, and the rest of the family, if we did not head to New York and celebrate in a big way. Well, dear sister, if you happen to be near New York City, you need to drop by the Waldorf Astoria Tuesday night and we will all be there. There will be several tables occupied by the Woerner/Bulldog entourage, including family members and many of the senior teammates from the 1980 National Championship team, and of course, Coach Vince Dooley and his wife Barbara.
New York City, here come the Bulldogs. Get ready!
Now, my wife and I have traveled quite a bit in the last 25 years, often taking students to many of the great cities in Europe. During my playing days in NFL, and then the USFL, I have had the pleasure of spending the night and playing football in many cities in the U.S., but never in New York City. The only time I was in New York City was for one day in the spring of 1981.
Before you would be considered for the NFL draft, you had to get a physical. I was flown to NYC where I remember getting poked and probed and tested at some hospital in the city. Finally, someone walked up and said, “Scott, you are finished,” handed me some money and said I could leave. During that day, I had met this quarterback from West Texas, both of us fish out of water. We were ready to go anywhere. What a day? The cab ride we shared from the hospital to the airport was similar to the roller coaster at Six Flags, but we made our flights running through the terminal.
My itinerary does not leave much free time while in the city this year. Guess that means I will just have to go back each year for the ceremony. Although, I am sure my wonderful wife, Marianne, will have some plans or tickets to some show or something to keep us busy. I had created a to-do list and expect that it will probably take several trips to complete. But, it won’t match hers anyway, so I tossed it. I have never been disappointed in my travel partner’s planning.
I have mentioned several times in the column this fall what wonderful opportunities I have had to meet and listen to interesting and talented professionals bound by the games we play. The College Football Hall of Fame class of 2016 is no different, with many names easily recognizable to anyone who followed college and professional football over the years. Of course, I identify quickly the players who came after my time. But the players I am most excited to meet and hear the stories from are those of the ones whose time preceded mine. William Fuller, from the University of North Carolina, is the only inductee I know personally. He was one of the many great teammates I had playing in the USFL, winning championships in 1984 and 1985 before the league folded. The Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the USFL was the second-best time I ever had playing the game of football, but that is another story.
I will never forget my time at the university playing football for Head Coach Vince Dooley. I told Coach he changed my career and my life when he moved me from offense to play cornerback on defense in 1977. I said, “Put me in, Coach, I just want to play.” Vince Dooley is the reason I am being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and it gives me great pleasure to publicly say thank you to him for his advocacy on my behalf. Thank you, Vince.
Our motivational leader, Erk Russell, who coined the phrase “big TEAM, little me,” in 1980, had no idea how he inspired players. Then again, maybe he did. Coach Russell eventually ended up putting the life-changing phrase on T-shirts with the “Big TEAM” over the “little me “ for the entire team during the season. Coach could have made millions of dollars if he had trademarked that phrase. If truth be known, he was already the richest man in Georgia, which had nothing to do with money. I never realized how poignant that phrase was at the time, but as we age, things become so much clearer.
The team of 1980 was a very special group. So special that it has yet to happen again. A record-setting defense that started five walk-on players, an offense led by a senior dominated O-line, a seasoned quarterback that knew how to win, and the best freshman running back ever to play the game. I am honored and flattered to represent the University of Georgia as their 13th player inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame. I am most proud to represent my senior brothers from 1980 and all my teammates that were part of that perfect season. Without them I would have never even made the list. A sincere thank you to each and every one of them. We will all share in this glory.