Sean Bedford did not know Frank Broyles well, but was nonetheless indelibly impacted. Bedford, Georgia Tech’s two-time All-ACC center, recalled Broyles for his kindness, his air of dignity and his love for Georgia Tech. Broyles, whose surpassing career in college athletics began at Tech, died Monday at the age of 92.
Bedford was a senior with the Yellow Jackets in 2010 when he first met Broyles, best known for winning a shared national championship and seven Southwestern Conference titles as coach at Arkansas. That year, Bedford was named the first winner of the Burlsworth Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
The award was named in honor of the late Brandon Burlsworth, a former Arkansas offensive lineman who began his career as a walk-on before rising to attain All-American status. The award is presented by an Arkansas Rotary Club, and Broyles was on the selection committee.
The two met when Bedford traveled to Springdale, Ark., to receive the award. The two hit it off, Bedford recalled, as they talked Tech football and Broyles shared his memories of Bobby Dodd, for whom Broyles played and later coached.
“It was an honor to meet someone who was such a legend of the game and really just a wonderful person,” Bedford said Tuesday.
Bedford described him as warm, welcoming and having “an air of dignity that you don’t see very often. He was one of those people that you look at him and you instantly knew there was something special about him.”
Broyles enjoyed a singular career. He was a three-sport athlete at Tech, a two-time All-SEC quarterback and the 1944 SEC player of the year. He was drafted in baseball, basketball and football. In the six years when he was an assistant to Dodd, 1951-56, the Jackets were 59-7-3 and won the Sugar Bowl three times and the Orange, Gator and Cotton once each.
He had a hall of fame coaching career at Arkansas, winning almost 70 percent of his games over a 19-year span. He had a successful run as a college football analyst. As an athletic director, he led the school’s jump to the SEC and hired, among others, basketball coach Nolan Richardson. Razorbacks teams won 43 national championships under his watch.
“I’m blown away by everything he was able to accomplish,” said Bedford, now an analyst on the Tech radio broadcast team. “It’s incredible to think that somebody could pack that many accomplishments and achievements into a single lifetime.”
In his conversations with Broyles, Bedford recognized the place that Tech held in his heart, though he was long identified more for his contributions at Arkansas. Bedford recalled the two sang “Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech” together, though they cut the duet mercifully short.
“(Tech) certainly was very special to him,” Bedford said. “And I think it was a pretty massive part of who he was and how he’d gotten to where he’d ultimately end up.”
The figure that Broyles cut made the conversations Bedford shared with Broyles in 2010 and in later years when he returned to be a part of Burlsworth Trophy presentations all the more meaningful.
“To see that he was genuinely interested in me and my story, that was touching, in my mind,” Bedford said. “He was the icon. He was the legend. I was just lucky to be in the same room with him, and for him to take an interest in me, I thought was special.”