Billy Lothridge’s name is synonymous with Gainesville High.
Now more than 60 years after completing his football career with the Red Elephants, he is still considered one of its best ever, cementing his legacy as a quarterback, punter and kicker.
And the street bearing his name, Billy Lothridge Boulevard, feeds into the school’s campus.
And in the late 1950s, Lothridge was one of the driving forces behind the Red Elephants’ success on the gridiron.
As it turned out, that was just the beginning for Lothridge, who went on to star at Georgia Tech, as a three-year starting quarterback, and then kicked for four different franchises in the NFL between 1964-1972.
On June 8, Lothridge will posthumously be one of the newest inductees into the Gainesville Athletics Hall of Fame with a ceremony at The Chair Factory in Gainesville.
Lothridge, who was Heisman Trophy runner-up for the Yellow Jackets in 1963, died at age 54 in 1996.
“Billy just got in the huddle and I guess you’d say that he played quarterback with a linebacker mentality,” said Billy Martin in a 2008 interview about his close friend and teammate from both Gainesville High and Georgia Tech. “You’d look around the huddle and everybody would be sweating with nicks on their hands and arms and a little blood here or there and he’d be the same way. (Billy) was a guy who was very intense and that rubbed off on everybody.”
Originally slated for induction in 2020, this year’s ceremony was delayed one year, due to the coronavirus.
Also being inducted are Dr. Tim Fulenwider, Stephanie (Yarem) Ransom, Patrick Hamilton and Tommy Valentine. The three-peat Gainesville High state championship baseball programs from 1996-1998 will be honored.
Many decades before Deshaun Watson or Blake Sims played at Gainesville — or were even born — Lothridge led a quarterback resurgence of Gainesville High football that is still thought upon fondly by those who saw him play. As a senior, Lothridge led Gainesville to a 10-2 record, subregion championship, region championship and trip to the state semifinals.
His final season for the Red Elephants started with quite a performance in a 41-0 win against Campbell. That night, he returned two punts for touchdowns (52 and 70 yards), caught two passes for 48 yards, completed three passes for 65 yards, made 5 of 6 extra points and averaged 40 yards per punt.
And that was just the start to a remarkable run for Gainesville in 1959.
Just a couple weeks later, the Red Elephants would top third-ranked Avondale at City Park Stadium.
Once he got to Georgia Tech, Lothridge remained a force on offense, amassing back-to-back seasons with more than 1,000 passing yards, 33 career touchdowns and scored 204 points (51 made extra points and two field goals) from 1961-63.
As a three-year starter at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets, he guided the program to a 21-10-1 record and two bowl game appearances.
After college, Lothridge was a sixth-round draft pick in 1964 by the Dallas Cowboys.
The majority of his professional career was spent with the Atlanta Falcons (1966-1971), where he was named the league’s best punter in 1967 and 1968. Lothridge would also play sparingly as a quarterback and defensive back in the NFL.
Lothridge would retire with the Miami Dolphins in 1972, after playing in 104 NFL games.