But the greatest coach and the greatest all-around player in Bulldog annals haven’t convened to discuss the 1946 season. They’re together to talk about the Rose Bowl, where Georgia is bound for the first time since Trippi rushed for 130 yards, passed for 96, punted twice for an average of 49.5 yards and intercepted a Bob Waterfield pass. Georgia beat UCLA 9-0 to finish 11-1.
“It was a great event,” Trippi says.
And: “It was my first time (in California). It took a long time to get there.” (The Bulldogs traveled to and from Pasadena by train. The outbound journey, from Atlanta via Chicago, took four days.)
And: “We went out there to win. We were very fortunate to come out with the victory. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Trippi was named the game’s MVP, but only retroactively. No such award was presented in those olden days. One reason Trippi was so prominent was that Frank Sinkwich, Georgia’s Heisman-winning quarterback, had hurt both his ankles. Another reason was that Trippi was among the finest players anyone has ever seen.
It was only after the 1942 Bulldogs lost to Auburn 27-13 in Columbus on Nov. 21 that coach Wally Butts decided to use Sinkwich and Trippi in the same backfield. “They used to alternate,” says Dooley, who has written about that team in one of his many books.
The next opponent was unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Georgia Tech. Says Trippi: “Losing (to Auburn) got us mad. It got us ready.”
Dooley: “The winner of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game would be invited to the Rose Bowl.”
Trippi: “It was contingent on that.”
Dooley: “Charley had a great game.” (Georgia won 34-0.)
Trippi: “I couldn’t believe we were going (to the Rose Bowl).
Dooley has seen footage of Georgia’s victory in Pasadena. He has a vague memory of listening to it on radio. (TVs weren’t yet a household thing.) He would, however, play a part in that game rising, ex post facto, to become a title-clincher.
“Georgia never claimed the ’42 national championship until I arrived,” he says. “Alabama had been the AP champ. I went to the (College Football) Hall of Fame in South Bend and did some research. There were actually 12 polls that year: Six had Ohio State, and six had Georgia as the No. 1 team. To me, it’s a consensus. I told Claude (Felton, then as now Georgia’s publicist), ‘We need to claim this one.’ ”
While playing at Auburn, Dooley was once likened to Trippi. “I had a pretty good game at safety. (He also played quarterback.) Coach (Shug) Jordan said, ‘He reminded me of Charley Trippi.’ I thought, ‘That’s the biggest exaggeration I’ve ever heard.’ ”
(This from the man who once said of Vanderbilt: “They have the greatest kickoff coverage team I have ever seen.”)
Trippi is one of the two best players in Georgia history. (Apologies to Sinkwich.) Asked how the all-rounder from Pittston, Pa., stacks up alongside the tailback from Wrightsville, the man who coached the latter says: "Charley was different than Herschel (Walker). Herschel didn't do what he did. That's not to say Herschel couldn't have done it. But Charley DID it."
In his role as coach and athletic director emeritus, the 85-year-old Dooley is headed to this Rose Bowl. It will be his first. Trippi has been invited but, due to the distance, has declined. He is 96, and he has been hospitalized three times in the past few months. Should Georgia beat Oklahoma, he and Peggy do plan to be in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the national championship game.
As exemplary as Trippi’s work in the Rose Bowl was, this is no less impressive: He still cut his own grass. (“That’s if the lawnmower works,” Peggy says.) He uses a riding mower. Sometimes he asks his grandson to walk alongside – the backyard has a steep decline – to make sure he doesn’t fall off.
To be closing in on 100, Trippi looks positively robust. On this day, he’s wearing a polo shirt from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in which he’s also enshrined. He doesn’t hear all that well, but he’s bright-eyed and strong of voice. Asked, in the form of a not very subtle icebreaker, if he recalls the game of 75 New Years ago, he says: “You better believe I do!”
Dooley: “Georgia fans love to travel to places they’ve never been. That’s why Notre Dame (in September) was so big. And now they have Notre Dame and this in the same year. Like Charley, this is something they’ll remember all their lives.”