What comes to mind when you think of the Georgia Bulldogs? Is it their recent back-to-back national championships? The hedges in Athens? Great running backs such as Hershel Walker and Garrison Hearst?
While they’re currently on top of the college football world, Georgia’s success didn’t start with Kirby Smart and his current Bulldogs. It goes back to the early years of the SEC and even before that.
While some of the names on this list may not be familiar to modern college football fans, it’s filled with All-Americans, All-SEC performers, and, of course, national champions.
Here is our list of the top 10 Georgia Bulldogs of all time.
10. Brock Bowers, tight end
It might be strange for someone like Brock Bowers to make this list early on in his career but he has already cemented his place as the greatest tight end to ever play at Georgia. He’s a two-time national champion, two-time All-American, and two-time first-team All-SEC player. For his career so far, Bowers has over 1,800 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns. He is well on his way to being a first-round draft choice next year and more than likely a Heisman Trophy candidate before he leaves.
9. Stetson Bennett, quarterback
Stetson Bennett is not on this list because he put up amazing stats, although they weren’t bad. In fact, he surpassed Aaron Murray for the most passing yards in a season with 4,127 yards. He is truly on this list because he is the only Georgia Bulldogs quarterback to lead his team to back-to-back national championships.
Bennett was a walk-on quarterback who beat out a five-star recruit to win the starting position and never looked back. Bennett, along with Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier, are the only quarterbacks to win back-to-back national championships in the modern college football era. Kirby Smart once said that Bennett was the “greatest Bulldawg ever.”
8. Charley Trippi, quarterback/defensive back/punt returner
Charley Trippi was a star on the 1940s Georgia Bulldogs team with Frank Sinkwich, whom we’ll get to later. He helped Georgia to an 11-1 record in 1942 before fighting in World War II. Trippi’s best year was 1946 when he was named SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American. That season he also finished second in Heisman Trophy voting behind Glenn Davis of Army. His best game that year was against rival Georgia Tech when he ran and passed for almost 600 yards (544 yards) and three touchdowns in a 35-7 win. A national champion in 1942 and Maxwell Award winner in 1946 after the war, he went on to have a decorated NFL career. Trippi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.
7. Hines Ward, wide receiver/tailback/quarterback
Hines Ward is arguably the best wide receiver in Georgia history and his career numbers back that up. Like several players who made this list, Ward didn’t play just wide receiver. He also appeared as a running back and played a little quarterback too. In 1996, he had 52 receptions for 900 yards and also ran 26 times for 170 yards. In 1997, he caught 55 passes for 715 yards and scored six touchdowns, while also running 30 times for 223 yards, garnering All-SEC honors in the process. In his sophomore year, he passed for almost 900 yards. However, his most impressive feat was throwing for 413 yards in the Peach Bowl. Vesatile might be the best word to describe Hines Ward.
6. Garrison Hearst, running back
In Georgia running back history, Garrison Hearst is often forgotten about. Hearst was a star for the Bulldogs in the early 1990s where he established himself as a great running back. In 1992, he was not only named SEC Player of the Year but also an All-American, Doak Walker Award winner, ESPN’s Outstanding College Athlete, and finished third in the Heisman voting. That season he rushed for over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his college career, he ended up rushing for over 3,200 yards and 33 touchdowns. Many of his Georgia career numbers are second to only Herschel Walker. Hearst would go on to have a long and successful career with the San Francisco 49ers and several other NFL teams, winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2001.
5. David Pollack, linebacker
Many football fans know David Pollack as a college football analyst, but he was also a great player with the Bulldogs. He has the distinction of being the only Bulldog not named Herschel Walker to be a three-time All-American. He finished his college career with 36 sacks, the third-most in NCAA history. He also racked up tons of honors, including three-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year, three-time first-team All-SEC, Lombardi Award winner, Lott Trophy winner, and Bednarik Award winner.
4. Champ Bailey defensive back/wide receiver/punt returner
Champ Bailey was Mr. Everything for the Bulldogs between 1996 and 1998. He played defensive back and wide receiver, garnering All-SEC and All-American honors. In his final season in Athens, he garnered 52 tackles, three interceptions, 47 receptions for 744 yards, five touchdowns, 84 rushing yards, 12 kickoff returns for 261 yards, and four punt returns for 49 yards. He also logged a wild 957 plays on the year. Bailey went on to have a stellar NFL career that included 12 Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro nods, and a spot on the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
3. Fran Tarkenton, quarterback
Frank Tarkenton is remembered for his Hall of Fame NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings, but before that, he was a great college quarterback. Tarkenton played for the legendary Wally Butts and led the Bulldogs to the 1959 SEC title. He also was a first-team All-SEC selection in 1959 and 1960. As the 1950s are considered by many to be the worst decade in Georgia football history, Tarkenton was a huge part of how the program rebounded and returned to power. In 1987, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, just a year after he had been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. Frank Sinkwich, quarterback/halfback
Modern college football fans may not remember Frank Sinkwich but he played a very important part in the history of Georgia football and the SEC. Sinkwich was the first SEC player to win the Heisman Trophy, doing so in 1942. In his three-year college career, he rushed for 2,271 yards, passed for 2,331 yards, and scored 60 touchdowns (30 rushing, 30 passing). Named the AP’s No. 1 Athlete of the Year for 1942, he beat out baseball legend Ted Williams for the honor. The two-time All-American and national champion went on to have a short but notable NFL career with the Detroit Lions, being named league MVP in 1994. Sinkwich is often credited with “legitimizing” Georgia football and lending credibility to the fledgling SEC.
1. Hershel Walker, running back
You can argue about Herschel Walker’s politics, but what you can’t argue about is how great of a college football running back he was. When you talk about the greatest running back in SEC history, the first name that comes out of most college football fans’ mouths is Walker.
In his freshman year in 1980, he ran for over 1,600 yards and scored 16 total touchdowns, carrying Georgia to their second-ever National Championship and finishing second in Heisman voting. His sophomore season was even better, as he rushed for 1,891 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. Somehow, he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, though he would do that the following season when he rushed for 1,752 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns.
Walker was the first Georgia Bulldog to be named an All-American all three years and was also named SEC Player of the Year three times. No SEC player, including the great Bo Jackson, has accomplished that feat. Walker is in the College Football Hall of Fame and the No. 34, which he wore in college, is now retired.
The great Georgia coach Vince Dooley once said of Walker “As soon as he hit the ground, he jumped up, put the ball down, and ran quickly back to the huddle. From that point early on, he gained their respect from the way he conducted himself—you know, the proper humility and the mental aspect of it. Physically, there wasn’t any question. I knew he was going to be good; it was just a question of how soon.”
He turned out to be the greatest Georgia Bulldogs football player ever.