NFL Draft sheds light on Georgian football’s forgotten history

UGA football added to its rich history with the dominance of the NFL Draft this year.

The five Dawgs taken in the first round last week set an NFL record for most defensive players at a school. And, with 15 Dawgs taken, UGA also set a new overall draft record for the modern era (since 1994). More, Travon Walker became the fifth UGA player to become the No. 1 overall pick, tying a mark also held by Notre Dame, Southern Cal and Oklahoma.

Three of Walker’s four Georgia predecessors drafted at No. 1 should be easy enough for veteran fans to remember or guess – Matthew Stafford (2009), Charley Trippi (1945) and Frank Sinkwich (1943), but the fourth would make an excellent quiz on sports bars. It was Harry Babcock, an end that played for wally butts at Georgia and was often on the receiving end of passes from the great Dawgs QB Zeke Bratkowski. Babcock was the 1953 first draft pick. (He then played three seasons for the 49ers.)

Speaking of UGA trivial questions, another issue would be this: Who was the first Bulldog player ever selected in the NFL Draft?

This photo from his NFL days in Washington shows Bill Hartman center, with Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh (#33) on the right. (Hartmann family)

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The answer is right under the noses of Georgia Bulldog Club season ticket holders each year, when they make a payment to a scholarship fund named in that player’s honor – the William C. Hartman Fund.

I was reminded of this relatively obscure part of UGA history this week when retired Atlanta sportscaster and fellow Athens native Bill Hartman III left me a note about how his dad was the first Dawg ever drafted by the NFL 84 years ago.

Bill Hartman Jr. was taken in the 8th round of the 1938 Draft by the defending NFL champions Washington Redskins and teammate Pete Tinley was drafted in the 11th round by the Green Bay Packers. It was only the third year of the NFL Draft. Other UGA players had played in the league before Hartman, but they had not been drafted.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the story, young Hartman told me, was that “Big Bill wasn’t sure he wanted to play. The NFL was not what it is today.

Bill Hartman was an All America player during his time with the Bulldogs. (University of Georgia)

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At the time, he said, his father, a recent UGA graduate, “was working for the Coca Cola Co. as a security guard, traveling to different cities and ordering Coca-Colas in the bars and restaurants. If the drink he was served turned out to be anything other than the real thing, Coca-Cola would send the restaurant a letter asking them to stop serving generic cola like Coca-Cola. It was fun for a child who has just left university.

His dad was in Green Bay, Wis., when he was drafted, the younger Hartman said, and “at first he said no thanks to the Redskins. But, they really wanted him to support the future Hall of Famer. Sammy Baugh at the tailback (at the time, essentially the quarterback).

“It was August 1938 when they sent him a letter offering him $175 a game and a plane ticket from Milwaukee to Washington. He wrote back, asking if he got the $175 even though he didn’t had not entered the game. The owner, George Marshall, said yes.”

In this August letter, the Skins coach Ray Flaherty noted that with the team playing a 13-game schedule, those $175-per-game payments would mean Hartman would receive $2,275 for the season, and, if the team won the division and the playoffs, he could possibly be get extra $500.

Said Flaherty: “I hope you will consider this offer; that’s a very good salary for less than four months of work.

Hartman took that flight to Washington to join the team. It turned out that Baugh was injured in the preseason and Hartman started for the first six games. In fact, he threw a touchdown pass in a 26-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in what his son proudly noted as “the first professional game he’s ever seen.”

Bill Hartman is seen running the ball during his time at UGA. (Hartmann family)

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Later in the season, Hartman also completed 13 straight passes in a game against Brooklyn.

The Redskins led the NFL East Division until Week 10, when they lost to the Chicago Bears, but the division title remained until the last day of the regular season, when 57,461 presented at the Polo Grounds in New York to watch the division. -Leading Giants welcome Skins. A win for Washington would have made them division champions, but the Giants prevailed 36-0.

This turned out to be Hartman’s only season in the NFL. He decided to quit professional football and return to Athens as a backfield coach for new UGA football coach Butts, under whom Hartman had played at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville before joining the Georgia Bulldogs. .

Recalled his son: “Even though he had a very good rookie year, Georgia’s new coach, Wally Butts, offered him more money to be Georgia’s backfield coach.”

Yes, the UGA coaching job gave Hartman a pay raise from the NFL, to $2,800 a year.

Letter from Washington coach Ray Flaherty offering Bill Hartman $175 a game if he signed with the Redskins. (Hartmann family)

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Additionally, the younger Hartman added that his dad “wanted to marry my mom,” Ruth Landers of Savannah, who was Hartman’s college girlfriend and Miss University of Georgia.

I asked Bill III how his father viewed his brief stint in the NFL.

“He was very proud of his time with the Redskins and became great friends with Sammy Baugh,” said the retired sports commentator. “When I was a kid in the 50s, the Redskins were on Atlanta TV every Sunday. He loved to relive his era while we watched.

(In the days before the Falcons, Washington was the de facto “southern” team in the NFL, and I remember my brother Jonathan asking for a Redskins uniform that was in the Sears Christmas catalog that we had received.)

Was Hartman proud to be the first Bulldog drafted?

“He never talked about being the first UGA player drafted,” his son said.

In fact, Bill III didn’t realize his father held this distinction until he did some research a few years ago. “Georgia didn’t have any great players in season 35 or 36. He was an All American in 1937, so it made sense that in the third NFL Draft he was the first UGA player drafted. .

Bill Hartman (right) with Georgia head coach Wally Butts. (Hargrett Library)

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Playing back, linebacker, and kicker in Georgia, in an era when players didn’t specialize, Hartman had set a Georgia record for throwing the ball 82 yards against Tulane in his senior year. (This punt still ranks second after Spike Jones’ 87 yards against Auburn in 1967.) Hartman also still holds Georgia’s record for most punts in a game: 14 against Auburn in 1937, which helped the Dawgs to a 0-0 draw against a highly regarded Tigers team that went on to win. the orange bowl.

Two weeks later, against Georgia Tech, Hartman threw a second-half kickoff and, after initially fumbling for the ball, ran 93 yards for the tied touchdown. The match ended 6-6 because, Hartman later recalled, “I missed the extra point. I was so out of breath I wanted a time out, but the officials wouldn’t allow it. .

I asked Bill III if his dad had a favorite memory from his time with the Redskins.

“He just liked to talk about his friends on the team, not really a favorite moment,” the younger Hartman said. “I wish I had pressed him. His 62-yard touchdown pass to Bill Young in the third quarter that beat the Eagles 26-23 on Sept. 11, 1938 must have been a thrill.

Volunteer coach Bill Hartman with legendary placekicker Kevin Butler (#6), starter/backman Jimmy Harrell (82) and snapper Matt Messer. (University of Georgia)

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After serving on Butts’ staff for seasons that saw the Bulldogs win the Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and a national championship, the elder Hartman left his coaching job at UGA to serve in the Corps. Army counterintelligence during World War II.

Back in Athens, he got into the insurance business and also spent several years as Butts’ assistant coach. He became a civic leader in Athens, serving on the city council and was one of the main supporters of the UGA, being appointed a trustee and president of the Alumni Association. In 1960, he became president of what was then known as the Georgia Student Educational Foundation, to raise private funds for athletic scholarships, a position he held for many years. He was also a fundraising ace for the university and was credited with arranging the largest donation ($10 million) ever given to UGA.

There was also more to Hartman’s football career. In the early 1970s he returned to the Bulldogs football team, working with punters and placekickers, including the Georgia legend. Kevin Butler, as a “volunteer kicking coach”.

When the NCAA changed its rules for volunteer coaches in 1992, he enrolled in a top school, so he could continue working with Dawgs kickers as a graduate assistant – laughingly dubbed the ‘oldest GA of the history of the game” by Vince Doley.

This photo of Bill Hartman with fellow UGA legend Dan Magill is “one of my favorites,” Hartman’s son said. (Hartmann family)

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Hartman eventually retired from coaching after the 1996 season, his son said. “He was 81 years old.”

After Hartman’s death in 2006, on the eve of his 91st birthday, the donation priority system he had founded was renamed in his honor. “I don’t think anyone has done more for college, both academically and athletically,” Dooley said at the time.

Hartman was named to the Sports Illustrated Silver Anniversary All America Team in 1962, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, and the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1984. In 1992, UGA announced the creation of the Bill Hartman Award, for athletes who had distinguished themselves as alumni.

And so, Bill III said, “This is the story of the first University of Georgia player ever drafted.”

As for the last Dawgs to enter the NFL Draft, Bill noted — with great understatement — that they’ll “make way better than $175 a game.”

(Special thanks to Steve Colquitt, Jason Hasty, Yvonne Zusel and Bill Hartman III.)

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