The boys at Georgia Sports Blog have some YouTube up of Charley Trippi, who some old timers swear was the greatest athlete Georgia ever produced. Look at the highlights. Then consider that he played defensive back, running back, quarterback and baseball, and there's an argument.
Bear Bryant said he was the greatest safety to ever play in the South. He also won the Maxwell award, which goes to the country's best offensive player. Plus, anyone whose resume looks like this:
National title -> World War II -> Undefeated season -> No. 1 draft choice -> pro football hall of fame
has a pretty good resume.
I met Trippi once, and asked him why he wore the #62, which is odd for a defensive back or a backfield player.
He said it was because "the guy in front of me got 61."
Seriously, folks, as soon as time travel is invented (shouldn't be long now) I'm headed to the 1945 Oil Bowl to see a play listed in the Georgia Media Guide as "Trippi's Immortal Punt Return."
Here's my December, 2005, interview with Trippi from The Telegraph's archives:
TELEGRAPH: You spell Charley with a y. Is there a story behind that?
TRIPPI: Never really discussed it. Just to put down Charles doesn't sound athletic. Charley sounds athletic.
TELEGRAPH: In 1946 you guys went 11-0 but Notre Dame was generally considered the national champion. It that something that bothers you --- then or now?
TRIPPI: As long as you win it doesn't make any difference. We felt like we were champions in our own way. Notre Dame always got preference in everything.
TELEGRAPH: What about the number 62? I don't know about back then, but now you wouldn't see a safety or a halfback wear No. 62.
TRIPPI: Lot of people ask me about that number. Well, when I was a freshman the guy in front of me got 61, I got 62. And I kept it. There's no fascination with the number or anything, I just took what they gave me. Back when I played at Georgia we didn't negotiate numbers with (Coach Wally) Butts. ... I'd be afraid to go see Coach Butts and say, 'Hey, I want a different number.'
TELEGRAPH: Give me one story back from your days as a player.
TRIPPI: We played in the Sugar Bowl, New Year's Day '47. Normally (in New Orleans) you feel like you're going to be living comfortable. We slept in the Tulane gym on cots the night before the game. Coach Butts was going to make sure nobody got out of line.