Monroe Area's Pollard recalls UGA football days

<P>Al Pollard was riding a team bus to a pre-season scrimmage prior to his senior season at the University of <!--Default NodeId For Georgia is 571,2003--><A HREF=http://georgia.TheInsiders.com>Georgia</A> in 1976 when defensive coordinator Erk Russell spoke up.

Russell asked Pollard if the player had ever missed a practice during his time in the Bulldog program. Pollard said he had not missed a single practice in his time in Athens. UGA head coach Vince Dooley immediately chimed in, "That's the only reason Pollard's playing."

The recollection of that memory brings a big smile to the face of Pollard, now the head football coach at Monroe Area High School.

Pollard, who had been involved with the sport of football for most of his life, said last week he wouldn't trade the memories of playing college football for anything. They were special times for him and he admits to learning a lot about the sport as well as life during those four years in Athens.

"When you look back on it, the memories are still there, still strong," Pollard said. "Every now and then I will dream that I am still playing. I'm not sure why I do that, but it's something that happens."

Pollard had a strong desire to play college football, and he also wanted to be a running back at the collegiate level. After attending school at Northeast Macon through his junior year, Pollard attended and played for Central Macon during his senior school year in 1972-73, helping the team earn a state runner-up trophy.

Pollard decided to play for the University of Georgia and still remembers making the trip from his home in Macon to Athens in the summer of '73.

"I was scared to death the entire time I was driving up there," Pollard said. "It took me a week to completely unpack my car and move everything into McWhorter Hall. You found out quickly just how much you wanted to play college football."

Pollard, who had been an All-State player in high school, survived the traditional hazing from the college upperclassmen and became part of the program.

"They want to see how much you want to be there," Pollard said of his teammates. "Plus, they didn't want you to take their jobs. I felt the same way when I had been there a while and new freshmen players would come in."

Pollard did not play in a varsity game his freshman season although he did travel with the squad.He had worked his way up the depth chart and was set to be a starting fullback his sophomore season in 1974. Then luck turned in Pollard's favor as UGA switched from an I-formation offense, which featured a > strong fullback to the veer offense and did not use a fullback at all.

"I remember seeing my name suddenly being at number five tailback on the > depth chart rather than as a number one fullback," Pollard said.

Rather than let the change in offensive schemes get him down, Pollard decided to work even harder. He would eventually move his way to second-string back in the veer system and even started two games in 1974. His first collegiate start came against Mississippi State.

Pollard saw even more playing time the next fall, starting several games and then helped the Bulldogs play for the national title in 1976. UGA would eventually lose to Pittsburgh, which featured Tony Dorsett, in the Sugar Bowl.

The loss to the Panthers was a huge disappointment to Pollard and remains so to this day.

Late in the 1976 season, Pollard became a key part of the Bulldogs' offensive attack, compiling more than 400 yards in the team's final four regular season games. It was also during that season that UGA defeated Bear Bryant's Alabama team 21-0 in Athens, which would help end the Tide's dominance when it came to winning Southeastern Conference titles.

"Beating Alabama that year was huge because they were the kings of the SEC during that time," Pollard said. "We actually beat them worse than the score indicated."

Looking back, Pollard said he enjoyed playing for Dooley, who continued coaching the Bulldogs until 1988.

"Coach Dooley believed in me and gave me a chance," Pollard said. "He was fair to everyone. "He was not really a 'rah-rah' guy, but he was a great organizer."

Pollard said Dooley never showed his anger other than the time the team lost in the Tangerine Bowl following his sophomore season.

"In the lockerroom after the game, he was pretty mad," Pollard said. "He let it be known we had a lot of work to do the next spring."

Pollard said he would play college football all over again if he had the opportunity.

"I learned a lot," Pollard said. "I admit I enjoyed the attention you got as a college player. I think college football players were put on a pedestal more back then."

Pollard used the experienced he gained playing in college to begin a coaching career.

The current MACHS coach has won more than 100 games in his own coaching career. He is entering his third season with the Purple Hurricanes this fall.

Almost 30 years later, Pollard said he was thankful for the parental support he received and he tries to give that same kind of support to his football players.

"I do all I can for my players," the coach said. "I know some don't have the type of support I had so I try to give it to them the best I can."


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