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Dooley: 'Albany is the heart of the Bulldog spirit'

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- For nearly 40 years, Vince Dooley has been coming to Albany for local Georgia Bulldog Club meetings in support, while seeing firsthand just how important the state's flagship university is to fans in this part of the region.

Now, in his latest trip, he hopes Albany will come out and support him.

"Southwest Georgia and Albany is the heart of the Bulldog spirit," Dooley told The Herald from his cell phone as he drove into town late Monday evening for his book signing today at the Albany Mall between 4-7 p.m. "I've been coming here for 35 or 40 years for Bulldog Club meetings -- haven't missed a one. And if it's one thing I've learned in all that time, fans here love their Bulldogs."

Since the release of Dooley's fourth and most recent book, entitled, "Dooley's Playbook: The 34 Most Memorable Plays in Georgia Football History," the former Bulldogs coach from 1964-1988 has pinpointed several areas of the state he wanted to visit for book signings.

Albany, meanwhile, will be his only stop in Southwest Georgia to talk about a book he calls "a unique and artistic way to look back at the greatest plays in Bulldogs history."

And of course, he says, "some are debatable -- and some just simply aren't."

"I made the book about 34 plays -- the number 34, of course, (playing off) Hershcel Walker's No. 34 jersey -- because I had to pick a stopping point and Herschel's No. 34 seemed as appropriate as any," said Dooley, who has also written an autobiography, "Dooley: My 40 Years at Georgia," and two Bulldog-themed children's books. "And it starts with the dedicatory game to Catfish Smith (in 1929, marking the first game ever played at Sanford Stadium) and goes all the way to Matthew Stafford hitting Mikey Henderson to beat Alabama in overtime (in 2007)."

Dooley then paused before adding, "Of course, and I'll give it away because it's hard for anyone to argue -- or not know this is the greatest moment ever -- but (former Georgia stars) Buck Belue passing to Lindsey Scott to beat Florida -- which eventually led to the national championship in 1980 -- is the one most people will say hand's down is the greatest. And I'd certainly agree."

Dooley said the vision for his latest ode to Georgia came about one night when he and former Georgia student -- and renowned Peach State artist -- Steve Penley and he were sitting around trying to come up with an idea for a book that would incorporate the coach's infinite knowledge of Georgia football with the masterful brushwork of Penley.

"Steve is an amazing artist and when we started talking about this, the idea just hit us one evening: I would gather playbooks of all the past coaches and diagram each of the 34 greatest plays in Georgia football history, and Steve would recreate that moment with a an illustration and try to

recapture it," Dooley said. "And what we turned out, I think, is a very attractive, unique book that's been very well-received -- and I really (take my hat off to Steve). A lot of people don't know this but Coco-Cola even recently commissioned him to go to Beijing and paint impressions of Coke's involvement during this past year's Olympics. He's extremely talented."

Of course, the Georgia legend stopped short of discussing in-depth one of his other many talents outside of coaching and regaling astounding moments in UGA football history: gardening.

"Yeah, I opened my big mouth about a year ago and told someone how much I loved gardening and how I should write a book about it some day," Dooley said with a laugh about his second love after football. "And now here I am, a year later, I just turned in all the text to my publisher and -- believe it or not -- all we're waiting on now is for Steve Penley to paint his illustrations for it. It should be out by April -- just in time for the gardening season."

But until it's time for Dooley's tomato, radish and arugula plants to blossom, he hopes "Dooley's Playbook" will do just that in time for Christmas.

"The book was released in October, and it's available everywhere and even (online at places like Amazon.com)," Dooley said. "But, naturally, it's mostly for folks in Georgia -- the die-hard fans who just love Georgia football."

Though, when asked if he had a favorite moment in the book, Dooley just chuckled.

"I can't pick one," he said. "They're all my favorites."