By LINDA SINCLAIR
As everyone knows I am not a very enthusiastic football fan. However, I do appreciate the love the fans have for the program. It has me excited for them because of their support for Coach Stoops and what may lie ahead in the years to come. There will be some very outstanding memories made in the coming years. And just like in the coming years, there are many memories that only some people or a very few share from past years. Many memories no doubt have faded from time because no one took the time to write them down to share for future generations.
I have a friend from high school who was very close to Coach Rupp and sat on the bench with him for many years. Once in a while he will share a memory on my Livin’ Blue & Lovin’ It Facebook page but not many and not nearly enough. I have been after him for years to write a book. I have even volunteered to help him at no cost. One day I hope he does put some rumors to rest and to tell the real stories of Coach Rupp and the teams he coached. It would be a shame for those memories to disappear forever.
There are too many people who have passed who never shared the stories they know, too many who won’t. Once in a while you come across someone who might share one now and then. The below message was posted on my FB page by Paul Bama Turner. It was written and sent by Bobby Blue, Bob Gibbs in a group email and then Hondo replied to his email. Hondo said we didn’t need to use his name, the players would know who he is. He was an assistant coach in the 50’s until 1960. Hondo is the coach who signed Lou Michaels to his scholarship. Hondo is now in his 80’s and I think he needs to share more memories. One day they will no longer be here for us to read. The email is not related to when he was at UK, but related to how he and Bobby Blue feel that the greatest football player who ever played for UK has been snubbed.
I have permission to send this to Larry Vaught from Hondo. Posted on Livin’ Blue & Lovin’ It, Aug. 20, 2013, and shared by Paul Bama Turner.
From Bobby Blue: “Until Dermontti Dawson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, UK had only produced One Hall of Famer in its football history. I think most people know who that is, but to me, it seems like this man goes unnoticed when talking about the good points of UK football. George Blanda is that guy. Blanda is generally considered one of the 15-20 best quarterbacks in NFL history and holds a bunch of records that stand today. Those include:
Most Touchdown Passes (Game): 7
Oldest Player to Play: 48 years old
Most extra points: 943
First Player to score over 2,000 points
To me, Blanda is hands down the best player to ever play at Kentucky. So why is this not a slam dunk like Dan Issel is in basketball? Is it because of the era that Blanda played at Kentucky? I understand that most of our fans don’t remember the great days of the mid-1940′s. But even still, shouldn’t we highlight this man more than we do? Blanda died in 2010, and I don’t remember him being honored at a game in my lifetime. I am certainly not saying it didn’t happen, but I just don’t remember there ever being a big celebration for him.
Could part of the reason be his numbers and success while at Kentucky was only so-so? In his 2 years starting at Kentucky, he only went 13-6-2, with the Cats winning a bowl in 1947. Clearly the passing game was not highlighted greatly by those Bear Bryant teams, as Blanda only completed 120 passes in those 2 seasons, throwing for 14 touchdowns. But I would argue so what? Especially in football, and especially at Kentucky, a person’s pro career is just as important and celebrated as the college one. Until Dawson was elected to the Hall of Fame, I would imagine many younger fans didn’t even know Dawson played at Kentucky.
Not to compare ourselves to Louisville but they put up a statue of Johnny Unitas in their football stadium. The same Unitas who had a LOSING RECORD when he played for Louisville. George Blanda won a bowl game while in Lexington. Why doesn’t UK have a statue for Blanda? Essentially, UL is only honoring Unitas for his contributions and successes in the NFL. And I think it’s a good thing. That statue is shown during every televised UL game. UK should do something similar for Blanda, who is probably the most notable UK player in history. (Maybe Randall Cobb will pass him soon)
Am I off-base? Is George Blanda a forgotten man when it comes to UK football history? And should UK do more to promote and highlight the career of 1 of their now 2 Hall of Famers?”
“Yes, I totally agree with you, George Blanda came to UK in 1945. He played fullback in the old Notre Dame Box under Coach Bernie Shively. In 1946 Coach Paul Bryant came to UK from Maryland and George was shifted to QB to run the Straight Formation. George went to the Bears and played with a lot of tough players. One year George played linebacker for Halas which show really how touch he was.”
Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who later won fame and set countless records at conference rivals Alabama, arrived in Blanda’s sophomore year, following a 1–9 season. The Wildcats lost three games in each of the next three years.
Years later, returning to the University of Kentucky and recalling the time he met Bryant, Blanda said “I thought this must be what God looks like.”
Blanda was the starting quarterback his last two seasons at Kentucky (1947–1948), compiling 120 completions in 242 passes (49.6 percent completions), 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Blanda holds the following professional football records:
- Passing TDs in a game: 7 (Tied with 4 others) November 19, 1961 vs. New York Titans
- Most seasons played: 26 (1949–58, 1960–75)
- Most seasons scoring a point: 26
- One of three players to play in 4 different decades: (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s)
- Most PATs made (943) and attempted (959)
- Most interceptions thrown, single season: 42 (1962)
- Held record of most pass attempts in a single game: 68 (37 completions, vs. New York Titans on 11/1/1961) until 1994 when Drew Bledsoe had 70
- Oldest person to play in an NFL game: 48 years, 109 days
- First player ever to score over 2,000 points
- Oldest quarterback to start a title game
- Most total points accounted for (including TD passes) in a career: 3,418 (not an official stat)
He is the placekicker on the All-Time All-AFL Team, and was one of only 20 players to play all ten years of the AFL, as well as one of only three who were in every AFL game their teams played. Blanda was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility, and also was inducted into the University of Kentucky Hall of Fame. In 1998 he was inducted into The Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame
Do you think George Blanda has been snubbed? I know you can’t judge him on his pro career to honor him at Kentucky, however, you have to admit, it was at Kentucky he got his start and he was pretty darn impressive there. Do you think a wrong should be righted? Is there anything we can do to honor the best football player UK ever had?
I can only imagine what Evil Twin Sister would say about all of this even if it is not basketball.