For a moment, Vince Dooley is back on the sideline at Sanford Stadium, wide-eyed at what his freshman star Herschel Walker was about to achieve.
He tried to keep up as Walker burst down the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown on Nov. 29, 1980, to help Georgia defeat rival Georgia Tech and set the national freshman rushing record.
Dooley didn’t quite have the same closing speed.
“I only lasted about 5 yards or so,” he said, with a grin.
Dooley can’t help but reminisce when he’s on his yearly book-signing tour, which stopped Tuesday afternoon at the Kroger on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville.
And he was more than happy to sign a glossy, framed picture of the iconic moment when Gainesville natives Chase Forrester and Amy Lewis stopped by.
Forrester’s grandfather, Paul Hemphill, had taken the shot that had stayed on Forrester’s bedroom wall for years until Forrester and Lewis heard Dooley was coming.
“It’s been my favorite picture since I was a kid,” Forrester said of the shot, which shows Walker in full stride toward the end zone in Athens. “Now all I’ve got to do is get Herschel to sign it.”
Dooley, who won the national championship with Georgia in 1980, is about halfway through his 2014 book-signing schedule that takes him up and down the state. From pictures to books to commemorative footballs, Dooley said he’s enjoyed signing items for the “wonderful human beings” who support the University of Georgia.
“It’s the opportunity to meet people that I couldn’t always get to sit down with when I was coach,” he said, autographing a silver football. “The Georgia people, they’re so loyal to
That’s what brought Bulldog fan Shannon Trotter to the event. She was getting a copy of one of Dooley’s books for her husband Christian, who would have been “ecstatic” to meet the veteran former coach.
“Every time it’s Saturday, it’s all about football and nothing else,” Trotter said of her husband of 18 years. “We’ve always been huge, longtime fans. Whenever Georgia’s on, we’re all for it. I wish he could have been here.”
Dooley, 82, has stayed busy since retiring as Georgia’s athletic director in 2004. Outside of his 12 published books, Dooley has been working with the Georgia Historical Society to write an extended article on the 1942 season in which Alabama would scrimmage Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich and Georgia in Athens.
He’s also been working on a project about the Civil War, which will “take a while” to complete.
After two decades of books and autographs, Dooley said he never tires of meeting Georgia fans, wherever the tour takes him. “I get stronger in the fourth quarter,” he said.