Part 1: The Coaches | Part 2: The Players
What can I say about the young men that I saw who graced the field on Saturdays "Between the Hedges"? Many did not get to dress out, but was a major part of the team. Many times, they aren't thought about. Most people tend to think of only the "star" players. In my book, all of them were stars. I laughingly told someone that I had one birth son and about 175 adopted sons each year. That was not too bad. I did not have to clothe them, house them or feed them!! However, I always was there if they needed me. I made many friends with the players during my tenure working in the football office. I would never be able to name all of the players who touched my life. I was associated with approximately 400 players, not counting the numerous walk-ons during my ten years at UGA.
After my first year there, I was known as "Miss Helen". I tried to learn every player's name and greet each one when they would come to the football office. As they got to know me, they would always have something to say. I know that it was especially hard for many of the guys, on their first year from home, to be thrown into this big university system. There were many times that I could tell something was bothering one of them and I would ask if they wanted to talk about it. Several of them confided some of their problems to me, when I was more or less a sounding board for them. When they would ask my opinion, I would tell them, "What I tell you is not what you should do but it is what I would do or what I would suggest to my son to do if he was in the same situation. What you do will be your own decision. I just hope you make the right decision for yourself."
When I first started working at UGA, I had the impression, as many do, that all football players were just "jocks" . In other words, all muscle and no brain. It did not take long to realize how wrong I was. When I started working on the playbooks, I was amazed. There were pages and pages of different plays that looked like Greek to me. These young men had to practice these plays, remember them, and know exactly which one to do in different situations. Now, I'm talking about a notebook that was usually about two to three inches thick. This really changed my way of thinking about football players and the coaches. Not only did the players have to know, memorize, and be able to execute these plays but they also had school classes that they were attending, tests they had to take, and mountains of papers that they had to write each quarter. Let me tell you, folks, these guys are a lot smarter than you think! My hat is off to all of the players for all the hard work that they endured each and every year to make it through college and also be a team player for a football team.
These young men were so much fun. They always were up to some type of prank. In my first three months, we had some really big players-some even weighing over 300 pounds. I felt like a "munchkin" when I was around some of them, because at that time I only weighed about 130 pounds. I remember one day I started out to my car to leave work when two of these players (who later went on to play in the National Football League) approached me. They were always joking around, so I had no idea what they had in store for me. I had a little Volkswagen car, which was yellow, and they started making remarks about me riding in a "lemon". We got a good laugh about that but then they really surprised me. One of them picked me up, as if I was a toy, and the next thing I knew, they were pitching me over my car, back and forth like you would a ball. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, calling them a few things, which I am sure their parents had never called them. I was pleading for them to put me down. They would just laugh and pitch me back and forth. Some of the coaches came out of the building to leave and I was screaming, "Help me!" when they just looked at me, laughed, got in their cars and left. Finally, these two goofs put me down. I told them that if I wasn't so mad, I would paddle them both. They apologized to me and asked if they had hurt me. What?? Like being thrown over a VW bug by two huge human beings was fun! When I calmed down, I accepted their apology but I told them to NEVER do that again! I think it finally dawned on them what they had actually done and they were embarrassed. When I see them now, after they graduated and went their separate ways, we still get a good laugh out of this.
The players not only pulled pranks on me, but they respected me as I respected them. Of all the players that I met, I never met one I did not like. I remember one time when I was going to have surgery and some of the players found out about it. Bryant Gantt asked me how long would I be out of work and I told him about a week. The next day, he came by my office with a big cardboard box and gave it to me. I had no idea what was in it. When I looked inside, there were all types of movies. He said that he knew I would probably get bored watching regular television so I could borrow these movies to watch while I was at home. I will never forget his thoughtfulness in making my stay at home more enjoyable. These guys were always such gentlemen that it was a pleasure to be around them. People (fans) sometimes forget that the players have feelings and problems, like everyone else.
Many times, I would get telephone calls from some of the former UGA players who just wanted to know how I was doing. They would tell me what was going on in their lives. I was so proud of the accomplishments that they had achieved. There was one, in particular, that would call about every three to four months. When he would call, he would ask for "Mama Helen". When the other secretary answered the telephone, she would look at me and say, "I don't know who it is. I know it is not your son." I would always act as if I did not know who was calling after I answered the telephone. I would ask who it was and his reply would always be, "I'm your favorite son." Then I would call out different names until he would say, "It's Rodney (Hampton)." I considered all players my adopted sons and I will always be grateful and thankful for the opportunity to have known these fine, young men in my life.
Well, here it is two years after I retired from the football office, and my memories will always be fresh in my mind. I survived three head coaches, numerous
assistant coaches, and so many great young men who graced the halls of the Butts-Mehre building as players, managers and trainers.
When the Athletic Association first employed me, I was so excited I had a job that I was anxious to get to each and every day. Before being employed by the football office, I worked in the medical field for almost 25 years. I was burned out from all of this. I always made the joke that I went from "healing" to a business where "bruising and hurting" people was the norm. I had many part time jobs for about seven years when I landed the job which I am presently employed. I started working out of my home as a medical transcriptionist on Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday and Monday evening. After about two years doing this part-time, I was offered a full-time position. The salary was rather good and I was getting at a point in my life when I needed to think about my future. I found out that if yo