charley trippi
charley trippi

Charley Trippi - Second from right

(Photo : Nate Fine/NFL)


Replying to our article. Johann Rupert responds :

The name Trippi also confused me - I said to Gaynor that it sounded like a ballet dancer. Having Googled it some years ago I found the source, a combination of Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana!”

“Extract from The Georgia Bulldogs by Shane Hannon”

Still regarded by many as the greatest all-around athlete ever to don the red and black, Charley Trippi almost spent his life as a coal miner in a small town of Pittston, Pennsylvania.

That was the destiny Trippi, the son of a coal miner, faced before he was spotted by the late Harold “War Eagle” Ketron, who had played for the Bulldogs in the early 1900’s. After graduation, Ketron ran Coca-Cola bottling plants in Western Pennsylvania, where he always kept an eye out for athletic prospects.

At Pittston High School, nobody thought much of the skinny 160-pound kid with wavy black hair, but Ketron had a gut instinct about Trippi’s potential as a prize halfback and he offered the 19-year-old a scholarship to Georgia. Boosters could do that in those days.

“I owe a lot to ‘War Eagle’ Ketron,” said Trippi, who is retired but still resides in Athens. ‘“He watched me play high school and took a great interest in my welfare. I was very fortunate to get a scholarship offer - I wanted to get out of that area. I couldn’t visualize mining coal eight hours a day for the rest of my life.”

“I had dozens of offers and a lot of pressure to go to other schools,” he said. “But I’m a man of my word, and I had told Mr. Ketron that I was going to Georgia, and I was not changing my mind.”

One trip to California was like a dream for Trippi and for most of the Bulldogs, who had never been out West. The team dined with some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities, including Bob Hope, Rita Hayworth and Errol Flynn.

“Each player sat between two stars,” Trippi said. “I drew Susan Hayward and Barbara Britton.”

Days later, Trippi got chills when he took the field on game day. It wasn’t surprising considering the Rose Bowl crowd of 90,000 was more than four times the population of his hometown.

Trippi was a major factor against UCLA. With Sinkwich nursing two badly sprained ankles, No. 62 carried the rushing load and gained 130 yards and was named the game’s outstanding player.

World War II interrupted the playing career of many college athletes, including Trippi, who served close to three years in the Air Force before being discharged. He returned to Sanford Stadium for the final six games in 1945.

“Of course, you’re disappointed because the war destroyed what you planned to do in your career,” Trippi said. “But everyone else was in same situation. You just had to recover after it was over and pursue again what you had started.”

The transition wasn’t as easy for Trippi because coach Butts had implemented a new offensive system while he was away - switching from the single wing to a T-formation. It took Trippi a while to get the feel of the new offense, but he learned to like it because it gave him more opportunities to throw the ball, something he did well.

In the season finale against Georgia Tech in 1945, Trippi set an SEC record for passing yards in a single game at the time (323) and also gained 61 yards rushing for a total of 384 yards total offense, which was another SEC record at the time.

The junior capped his war-shortened season by helping the Bulldogs to a 20-6 win over Tulsa in the Oil Bowl. Trippi completed a 47-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and then ran back a punt for a touchdown. The 68-yarder is still considered one of the most spectacular plays in Bulldog history as Trippi “practically touched both sidelines,” completely reversed his field at one point and ran over two Tulsa tacklers who had him trapped.

“I ran on instinct,” Trippi said of his style. “Occasionally, I would reverse my field or go against the grain because it came natural to me.”

Trippi has been honored many times over the years. He was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. He is also one of only four Bulldog players to have his jersey retired.

“Life has been good to me because of sports,” Trippi said. “I feel very fortunate that my dreams came true.”