Former players remembering Georgia Coach Vince Dooley
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A huge loss for college athletics, the state of Georgia, and the University of Georgia.
Former UGA Head Coach Vince Dooley died Friday at 90 years old and no one feels the loss deeper than Coach Dooley’s former players, some right here in Augusta.
Along with the first national title in 40 years, the Bulldogs won six SEC championships under Dooley’s watch.
Hardy King, who lives in Harlem, played wingback for Dooley during one of those SEC wins in the late ‘60s.
“I think he’ll be remembered, first of all, as a great football coach. He was a former Marine. Captain of the Marines and a strong disciplinarian,” he said.
Along with a legacy as one of the classiest guys on the gridiron, he was also known as one of the toughest.
“I remember, first practice, he said, ‘there’s only two ways to miss a practice with me as head coach. You die, or you get my permission and the latter is the hardest one to get’,” he said.
David McKnight played under Dooley in the early ‘70s as a defensive end. He had the chance to see the coach in August at his 90th birthday party.
“Even at 90, he was sharp, and he was living life every day, so I think he lived quite a full life,” said McKnight.
He’ll remember him not just for the coach he was, but for the man he was, too. He remembers a ‘G Day’ a few years back that stuck with him.
“A young man came up and said, ‘Coach Dooley, I’m going to interrupt you just a second. I was here for a month as a walk-on in ‘81 or somewhere in there. He said ‘you’re from Augusta, aren’t you?’ This is an 85-86 year old man who recognized him and knew all about him. That was the kind of man he was. He didn’t forget you,” he said.
Dooley is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the Georgia and Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and is the winningest coach in Georgia football history.
After the Bulldogs won their latest national championship, Head Coach Kirby Smart told a story about a special moment he shared with Dooley.
“I think about hugging Vince Dooley’s neck after the game and I’m in tears and he’s in tears. I got off the elevator the other night and I thought this is a sign. 15th floor. He’s sitting on a bench locked out of his room. And I thought God put him here for me to see him the night before this game. He was waiting on the key to come up to his room and I knew that meant something,” he said.
Former players say you can bet the rivalry game against Florida will have even more meaning.
King said: “With him passing away today, I think you’re going to see 90 football players at Georgia playing for Coach Dooley.”
Gone, but not forgotten, by thousands who will remember the man synonymous with Georgia football.
McKnight said: “He built a program that’s the envy of the country. He did it with grace, and class, that nobody else I’ve seen has done. Even at 90 he still carried himself as a gentleman.”
Tributes have been pouring in on social media since the news hit.
Governor Kemp released this statement: “Throughout his years on and off the field he inspired his players and all those who knew him to be better, stronger, and more accomplished versions of themselves. His character and work ethic not only ensured the Georgia Bulldogs met with success.”
Head Coach Kirby Smart: “Our family is heartbroken by the death of Coach Dooley. He was one of a kind with an unmatched love for UGA! He and Barbara embraced my family from day one. He will be missed in our community, university, and in college athletics.”
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