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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?”

 

Hondo’s reply:

 

“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[6]
  • 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.

32 Responses to Is George Blanda the best player ever to play football at Kentucky?

  • HONDO@ says:

    SMALL CORRECTION–THAT WAS “STRAIGHT T FORMATION” THAT COACH BRYANT BROUGHT TO KY FROM MARYLAND THAT GEORGE BLANDA LATER RAN–THE STRAIGHT T WAS LATER ALTERED TO THE MANY FORMATIONS SEEN TODAY—

    I WAS ON THE FOOTBALL STAFF AT UK FROM 1952 THROUGH 1957–HAD CLOSE CONTACT WITH UK FOOTBALL THROUGH 1963 WHEN I LEFT KY –

    GEORGE BLANDA WAS THE “LIGHT” FOR AL DAVIS AT THE RAIDERS AS HE WAS FOR MANY FORMER UK FOOTBALL PLAYERS AND ASSOCIATES–YET MANY PEOPLE NEVER CONNECT GEORGE BLANDA AND KY FOOTBALL–IN FACT MANY PEOPLE DON’T CONNECT//RECOGNIZE GEORGE BLANDA–

    HONDO2

  • Jimharris says:

    I would expect my opinion to be in the minority, but based only on play at UK I’d go with The Babe and Bob Gain. I don’t know a single stat off hand, just based on memories of long ago. Loved Blanda as a pro.

  • Litte Baron says:

    Excellent article. Thanks!

    It would be a splendid idea for UK to recognize Blanda much the way Unitas has been recognized by UL. We need to capitalize on the great players in UK football history, especially since we don’t have the recognition in football through the years, due to so many losing seasons and decades.

    This would be an excellent time for Stoops & Co to begin to embrace former players, beginning with recognition of Blanda with a significant award, marker or something similar to the awesome Joe B. Hall bench.

    I always think of Jeff VanNote when former UK players are mentioned, who played for the Atlanta Falcons for years and was also a radio announcer for games. He was always associated with UK, even through this pro years. Art Still is another, and of course Tim Couch and most recently Randall Cobb.

    It’s time to roll out the red carpet for players who made major contributions in UK football… can’t blame these guys for the futitlity of the program…

    Dicke Lyons… one of the all time greats in UK football… played running back, receiver, QB, kicked extra points, punted and probably more… just can’t remember it all, but what an awesome player who produced even though all 11 defenders knew to focus on just one player!

    • Gene T. says:

      Dickie senior was at the Spring game and I had the privilege to talk to him for a long time. I will cherish the stories he told me and we need to get those guys involved.

  • King Ghidora says:

    We shouldn’t forget Babe Parilli. Blanda had more yardage as a QB and of course he had more points being a kicker. But his yardage was spread out over a very, very long career. Parilli played a long time but Blanda was famous for his longevity and for being able to get it done late in his career. But the thing is when Babe was in his prime he was better than Blanda. George had that amazing run late in his career when he won a string of games coming off the bench as the QB late in the game. He was in his 40′s at the time. It was a time of a lot more tv coverage too. That, combined with his incredibly long career (made possible mainly because he was mostly a kicker) put him in the hall. But if I was going to pick a QB and both of those guys were in their prime there’s not a doubt in my mind that Babe would be my starter.

    • Litte Baron says:

      I forgot to mention Babe. There are many who need to be recognized. I was not really picking anyone as the “best” but naming some other greats, in addition to Blanda. Rick Norton was awesome, and yet he spent his career behind Bob Griese. Who knows what he could have done if he had been on a team other than where a legend was playing?

      Now is a good time to start touting former UK players who contributed at UK and/or in the pros. The ’77 team was loaded… and not all the players should be slighted because of the actions of a few.

  • David says:

    George was a favorite of mine when he played with the Raiders. I remember him as the miracle man. I still remember the game when Blanda, then a 43-year-old kicker and backup quarterback, took over for starting quarterback Daryle Lamonica and threw three touchdown passes to lead the Raiders to a victory over the stunned Steelers. To add insult to the Steelers he kicked the extra points. George was one of my football hero’s growing up.

  • Larry Pup says:

    I agree with Coach Hondo. Never knew your history coach. Thanks for sharing. Blanda deserves more recognition from his alma mater for sure IMO. So yes I’m for erecting a statue of his likeness, shucks for the “Babe” too. UK needs to do some creative things now for UK football. There was none better than Blanda based just on being a great football player in college and a legend in pro football. A statue of Blanda would look good somewhere in the new stadium confines.

  • LindaS says:

    How do we go about getting some recognition for some of the older players? Who do we need to contact? Could we set up a fund drive during home games to collect money or just to let people know that we feel like some of the older players have been slighted? I saw where the things from the Basketball Hall of Fame were sold. What a sin.

  • HONDO2 says:

    GIBBSWANI POINTED OUT IN HIS ARTICLE TO ME[A VERY WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE I MIGHT ADD]WHICH SAID THAT GEORGE BLANDA WAS NOT TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR HIS FB DAYS AT UK ONLY–BUT FOR HIS LIFE TIME IN FB–BOTH COLLEGE AND PRO–

    GEORGE LAYED OUT 2 YEARS WHEN HE WASN’T PAID WHAT HE FELT HE DESERVED–HE THEN WENT TO HOUSTON WHEN THE AFL WAS STARTED WITH BUFFALO–HOUSTON–DALLAS TEXANS[LATER TO BECOME THE KC CHIEFS OWNED BY LAMAR HUNT] OAKLAND–AND ETC–HE PLAYED A NUMBER OF YEARS FOR HOUSTON–THEN MOVED ON TO OAKLAND WHERE HE BECAME AL DAVIS’S HERO–

    UK HAS A LOT OF GREAT PAST PLAYERS STARTING WITH BLANDA–BOB GAIN–BABE PARILLI–STEVE MEILINGER–RAY CORRELL–BOB FRY–HOWARD SCHNELLENBERGER–JEFF VAN NOTE–ART STILL–RANDALL COBB–AND OTHERS I HAVE MISSED–

    THE FACT THAT JEFF VAN NOTE CAME DOWN TO THE BRYANT REUNION IN 2009 TO PAY HIS RESPECTS TO THOSE PRESENT SAYS A LOT FOR BOTH JEFF AND THOSE PRESENT–

    HONDO2

  • HONDO2 says:

    EXCUSE ME ROGER BIRD AND ALL OTHERS I HAVE MISSED–

    HONDO2

  • King Ghidora says:

    I think the whole country was a Blanda fan that one year. He came off the bench and led come from behind victories like 6 or 7 times in a row!. It was amazing to watch. Every game developed a new way that always led to Blanda coming in to save the day. It was very strange really. It was like the football gods were drawing up situations for him to save the day every week. It was almost spooky the way it kept happening. My brothers and I already liked George before the streak because of him being a UK guy. We had been Oakland fans for quite a while too because we idolized Fred Biletnikoff. He was such a great receiver and he did it without a lot of natural ability. We tried hard to emulate the way he played the game to the point where I used a can of Stick’em during every game I played in high school. And anyone that threw him the ball because someone we liked too. When Blanda pulled off a few victories we started watching him every week. The whole country did. It was totally freaky how it kept happening. It remains one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in sports. Blanda was like Biletnikoff. He got more out of his ability than anyone else around except for each other. :)

  • HONDO2 says:

    AS I POINTED OUT WITHOUT READING THE RECORDS ONE ALWAYS LEAVES SOMEONE OUT–LOU MICHAELS WAS UNBELIEVEABLE–COULD BE AS GOOD AS HE WANTED TO BE–BOTH AT TACKLE AND KICKING THE BALL–LEAD THE LEAGUE ONE YEAR KICKING FOR THE STEELERS–

    BUT WE STARTED WITH GEORGE BLANDA–LET’S PAY OUR RESPECTS TO GEORGE–THEN MOVE ON TO THE OTHER DESERVING FORMER UK PLAYERS–

    HONDO2

  • HONDO2 says:

    WHILE WE ARE TARGETING GEORGE BLANDA ANOTHER ATHLETE CAME DOWN TO LEXINGTON FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF HARLAN IN 1945 NAMED WAH WAH JONES–WAH WAH PLAYED FB WITH GEORGE BLANDA[WAS PRETTY GOOD AT IT]I NEVER ASKED GEORGE ABOUT WAH WAH OR WAH WAH ABOUT GEORGE–BOTH PLAYED FB UNDER BERNIE SHIVELY IN 45 AND COACH BRYANT IN 46–47–48

    OF COURSE WAH WAH PLAYED BASKETBALL–AND BASEBALL–WAS PRETTY GOOD AT ALL 3[WAH WAH WAS PROBABLY THE BEST ALL AROUND ATHLETE UK EVER HAD]–BILLY EVANS WAS PROBABLY SECOND BEST???

    BACK TO GEORGE–

    HONDO2

  • LindaS says:

    we can’t let this rest, how can we get the ball rolling to honor George? Who can we contact? I guess that should read, who can I contact? How can we get some more coverage for this story? Help Help Help!

  • King Ghidora says:

    OK I looked it up. It was actually 5 weeks in a row that George came in and saved the day either as a backup QB or as a kicker doing things that were almost unheard of at the time. Remember this was before soccer style kickers when guys kicked the ball straight on. Trust me distances on field goals were much shorter. There’s a reason no one kicks like that now. But Blanda hit an improbable 48 yard field goal to win one game as an example of the kind of thing he did. But that wasn’t all.

    The one thing that made him such a standout for his remarkable run was the fact he was 43 years old at the time. He was 9 years older than his coach (John Madden). People loved it that an old man could generate such greatness on the field.

    A complete description of his wins can be found on this web page. It is well worth reading.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9802E3D6143BF937A25751C1A9679D8B63

    Blanda was truly the stuff of legends. That one season cemented his place in football lore forever. Old guys don’t play football and they certainly aren’t the heroes of a bunch of games in a row. It’s just amazing what he did that year. Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of his efforts, “…he was named the A.F.C. offensive player of the year by United Press International despite throwing only 55 passes.” Amazing stuff.

  • LindaS says:

    And it all started at UK. I assumed the played at the field that was across from Memorial. Was that Stoll Field?

  • HONDO2 says:

    LINDA S–IMO A GOOD PLACE TO START WOULD BE “THE K ASSOCIATION” FORMERLY “THE K MENS ASSOCIATION” WHICH WAS FORMED AND RUN BY FORMER PLAYERS WHO HAD LETTERED AT UK[ALL MALES--NO LADIES HAD LETTERED IN THOSE DAYS--NO FEMALE SPORTS IN THOSE DAYS] SINCE THEN SOME 20 YEARS AGO LADY SPORTS CAME FORTH–[THE K HOUSE SETS AT THE EAST END OF COMMONWEALTH STADIUM] I WAS A MEMBER OF THE KMEN’S ASSOCIATION FOR MANY YEARS BUT QUIT WHEN I WASN’T CONTACTED YEARLY FOR DUES[WHEN ONE GETS OLDER THEY HAVE A LOT OF THINGS TO KEEP UP WITH–WHEN THEY DON’T GET A NOTICE THEY FORGET[IMO THE K ASSOCIATION MADE A BIG MISTAKE ON THAT–

    YOU MIGHT CONTACT “THE KENTUCKY COLONEL” THE UK NEWSPAPER–

    BOTH ORGANIZATIONS MIGHT TAKE ON THIS PROJECT???

    HONDO2

  • HONDO2 says:

    LINDA—YES THE FB STADIUM ACROSS FROM MEMORIAL COLISIUM WAS NAMED STOLL FIELD WHICH IS WHERE UK PLAYED HOME GAMES UNTIL COMMONWEALTH WAS BUILT–

    THE FOOTBALL PRACTICE FIELD WAS ACTUALLY THE UK BASEBALL FIELD[PRETTY POOR BASEBALL FIELD] WHICH WAS SOME 50 YARDS WEST OF STOLL FIELD–EITHER IN 54 OR 55 A NEW PRACTICE FIELD WAS BUILT UP NEAR THE NEW FOOTBALL LIVING QUARTERS KNOWN AS “WILDCAT MANOR” AND “KITTEN LODGE” WHICH WAS PURCHASED WITH MONEY FROM THE ORANGE–SUGAR–AND COTTON BOWLS FOR THE 49–50–AND 51 YEAR TEAMS UNDER COACH BRYANT–

  • LindaS says:

    Thanks for the info Hondo, gonna post something on my FB page and see if anyone is in the K club. You never know.

  • HONDO2 says:

    LINDA S–YOU MIGHT TRY CONTACTING THE UK ALUMNI ASSN–THE HEAD OF THAT GROUP IS A FORMER UK BASKETBALL PLAYER??? THEY MIGHT JOIN HANDS WITH THE K ATHLETES ASSN AND THE KY COLONEL GROUP AND BINGO–

    HONDO2

  • jcc says:

    I saw Blanda play late in his career with the Raiders and yes even at his age he was doing things to help win kicking everything. I never saw Blanda play for UK the most explosive player I have ever watched play was Alfred Collins, he was really something else.

  • Larry Pup says:

    I’m with you on that jcc. Sonny Collins was awesome. There have not been many like him since.

  • LindaS says:

    OK, from what I read these are the men who should be honored in some way with Blanda having a statue. Maybe a plaque around the statue for the rest and then other greats added through out the years. Babe Parilli, Bob Gain, Jeff Van Note, Sonny Collins, Dicky Lyons, Tim Couch, Randall Cobb, Steve Meilinger, Ray Correll, Bob Fry, H Schnellenberger ( maybe he would pay for his own) Jeff Van Note, Art Still Sonny Collins, Randall Cob, Roger Bird. I’m going to need a committee! I found one person on my UK FB page who was a manager on the Football team and a member of the K Club. I think there are a couple other ones and will contact them. I sure do have fun with my FB page. It is so good to be a member of the BBN!

  • HONDO2 says:

    LINDA S—2 THINGS TO REMEMBER–

    #1–FRANK FULLER WAS A SENIOR IN 53 UNDER COACH BRYANT–WENT ON TO MAKE THE “ALL NFL TEAM” PLAYING DEFENSIVE TACKLE FOR THE CHICAGO CARDS[YES--THE CHICAGO CARDS]LATER TO BECOME THE ST LOUIS CARDS–NOW THE ARIZONA CARDS– THERE WILL BE MORE–

    #2–THERE WERE POSTERS OF FORMER UK FB PLAYERS THAT EXISTED AT COMMONWEATH BUT WERE TAKEN DOWN UNDER BARNHART’S REIGHN///THIS RAISED QUITE A STIR–

    THE POSTERS AT COMMONWEALTH WERE SOMEWHAT LIKE THOSE AT COWBOYS STADIUM//NOT SURE OF WHAT IS VIEWED AT TEXAS TODAY–

  • HONDO@ says:

    LAST NITE[SEPT 5 2013]DURING THE DENVER/// BALTIMORE GAME THEY POSTED ON THE BOARD THE NAMES OF QUARTERBACKS THAT HAD COMPLETED 7 TD PASSES IN A SINGLE GAME IN THE NFL///AFL–GEORGE BLAND’S NAME STOOD OUT STRONG–

  • HONDO2 says:

    SPEAKING OF GREAT FORMER UK FB PLAYERS WE MISSED FEDDERSPIELD[LB] AT UK AND LATER FOR THE SAINTS FOR SOME TIME–WE SURE DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYONE ESPECIALLY FEDDERSPIELD–

    HONDO2

    • larryvaught says:

      Hondo2, We will have Joe Federspiel on our Thursday radio show thanks to Dave Hopewell. Listen at hometownlive.net at 6 or catch podcast at vaughtsviews.com

  • LindaS says:

    Got it Hondo, working on it. Gonna take some time.
    Go Cats!

  • HONDO2 says:

    WAY TO GO LARRY–I DON’T KNOW HOW TO OPERATE ALL THOSE NEW FANGLED DEVICES BUT AM SURE YOUR INTERVIEW WITH FEDERSPIEL WILL GO WELL–FEDDERSPIEL WAS A GOOD ONE BUT I NEVER GOT TO SEE HIM PLAY- AT UK–BUT DID IN THE PROS

  • HONDO2 says:

    LINDA S–ANOTHER NAME THAT SHOULD BE ADDED TO OUR LIST FOR HONORS IS DOUG MOSELY [ALL AMERICAN CENTER IN 1951 UNDER COACH BRYANT]–DOUG FOLLOWED HIS OLDER BROTHER BILL MOSELY TO UK FROM MONTGOMERY, ALA–

    BILL MOSELY[KNOWN AS COACH BILL]CAME TO UK FROM THE AIR FORCE–WHILE STILL IN THE AIRFORCE COACH BILL PLAYED IN A BOWL GAME FOR A SCHOOL HE DIDN’T EVEN ATTEND[SCORED THE WINNING TD]

    COACH BILL WAS UK TEAM CAPTAIN IN 1948–RETURNED TO UK AS ASST. COACH IN 1953[STILL RESIDES IN MONTGOMERY, ALA–A UK TREASURE–

  • Gene T. says:

    I really thing we (UK) should push our history. To all the 20 or 30 year olds, we have been a bottom feeder in the toughest conference. UK has a deep history and we need to place more importance on that. I had the privilege of meeting George Blanda when he was guest at UK 10 or 15 years ago. We have a lot of great players in our past. Bring them in and show fans, recruits that we are a football school. I’m not sure if Barnhart and the administration really know our history.

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