115 Years Ago

115 years ago on January 30th, Georgia took the field for the very first time. Georgia faced Mercer in a game that Georgia won 50-0. Of course no one is around that was at that game, but I did the next best thing. I talked to 2 of most respected historians of Georgia football for some help. I talked to Dan Magill and Loran Smith for some assistance.

First thing that both gentlemen told me was about this terrific book "Ghosts of Herty Field", by John F. Stegeman that would help me learn about this great matchup.

John Stegeman was the son of former head coach Herman Stegeman.

Coach Magill explained to me the game was played on Herty Field, which is on North Campus next to the Chapel Bell. But of course it was not called Herty Field back then. It was more of a drill field where the military schools would do their drills. Also baseball was played there and what Georgia called "field days".

The following paragraphs are some summaries from Mr. Stegeman's book...

Georgia graduate Charles Herty after graduation received his PHD at Johns Hopkins University and became a chemist, but he learned a lot more in Maryland.

Dr. Herty learned about a game of football that was a craze up there and brought back to Georgia a Walter Camp rule book. He then told students about the game and wanted to prepare a field for his game.

According to the book, The Glee Club had $50 and passed on its annual beer party and helped finance to removal of rocks and to fill in the bad holes on the field.

Early on Dr. Herty coached practices where he would toss the ball and watched his players scramble after it. The strongest players were allowed to play on the first team. He then set positions and formations for the team to run.

There were no opponents at that time, but in the fall of 1891, Mercer College agreed to play a game after Christmas. The game was to be played on January 30, 1892 in Athens.

Over 1,000 fans showed up yelling and screaming including Georgia's mascot... a goat at that time.

Here is what Georgia's lineup looked like with their positions, heights and weights...

Left end - L.D. Fricks (6'0" 160 lbs)
Left tackle - Rufus B. Nalley (6'0" 165 lbs)
Left guard - George Shackelford (6'0" 175 lbs)
Center rush - E.W. Frey (6'1" 202 lbs)
Right guard - Park Howell (6'2" 163 lbs)
Right tackle - A.O. Halsey (6'0" 165 lbs)
Right end - J.R. Lane (5'7" 135 lbs)
Quarterback - W.N. Gramling (5'7" 135 lbs)
Left halfback - John Kimball (5'6" 145 lbs)
Right halfback - Frank Herty (5'6" 125 lbs)
Fullback - Henry C. Brown (5'7" 145 lbs)

A.O. Halsey was the team captain, George Shackelford was the teams big star and Frank Herty was Coach Herty's cousin.

Mercer started with the ball and on the first play, Georgia stopped them for a 3-yard loss... Later in the game, on Georgia's first offensive play... Frank Herty to a pass-back from W.N. Gramling and broke free and scored on what was called "touched the down" but Georgia missed to kick after and the score was 4-0 (different type of scoring back then).

Georgia would score a lot more, but one play was unique. Mercer had the ball and George Shackelford picked up the player who still had the ball, then threw him over his shoulder and carried him 20 yards to his own goal line which is to believed to be the first ever safety.

Georgia kept on scoring on the final score was 50-0. Although Loran Smith told me a story which he read which stated that the score was a lot worse but many of the official scorers left early to get some "liquid purchases" before the shops were closed.

Dan Magill told me that Charles Herty was the coach at Georgia for one season and later became a successful chemist and was responsible for developing the process in which paper was made from pine pulp.

"The Ghosts of Herty Field" is a tremendous book and was very helpful. Another book which will help you learn about Georgia is called "Georgia Football Vault" which will come out around Father's Day and is written by Loran Smith.

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