UGA great Hodgson has always been a winner

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

The legend of the fleaflicker Moore-to-Hodgson-to-Taylor will never tire or lose its luster for those who were in Sanford Stadium Sept. 18, 1965, and witnessed Georgia's 18-17 upset of Alabama.

Trailing, 17-10, after posting a 10-0 lead early in the game, the upstart Bulldogs were, if not desperate, in need of something transcendental in nature. They got it when they surprised Alabama with a trick play that never worked in practice. Kirby Moore, the quarterback, threw a pass that resembled a dying quail ("My best pass, which was perfect for the occasion," he would later say), and Pat Hodgson, the receiver, would lean back to the ball and in one fluid motion gather the ball in and shovel it to Bob Taylor, the halfback who grabbed the lateral and sprinted for a touchdown of 73 yards.

That wasn't the end of the story. Georgia called time out, and the 34-year-old head coach, Vincent Joseph Dooley, huddled with Bill Dooley, offensive coordinator, and the offensive coaches and calmly signaled to his team to attempt a two-point conversion pass. It was Moore to Hodgson again -- a routine flood pattern with Hodgson on a flag route -- and Georgia had the lead 18-17. Subsequently the 'Dogs kept Alabama from mounting a drive for a field goal that would have broken all Bulldog hearts.

Hodgson, with years of coaching in the National Football League and 14 years in business, has retired to the Georgia Club in Athens.

"It is good to be back," Hodgson said recently over lunch. "It is good to see old friends and visit some old haunts. Life is good."

After beginning his career at Georgia, Hodgson wanted to prove to himself that he "could coach." He left the Bulldogs for a job at Texas Tech in early 1978. He was divorced and felt he needed to build a new life. He had hardly gotten settled in Lubbock when Tommy Prothro, coach of the San Diego Chargers, offered him a job as receivers coach. The money was alluring, but the National Football League opportunity was just as alluring. His head was swimming. A year later, Ray Perkins, who recruited Hodgson to San Diego, was named head coach of the Giants. Pat joined him and spent nine years in New York, getting out of coaching for four years and then getting back in when Bill Cowher offered him a job with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992. Four years in Pittsburgh and five with Bill Parcells and the Jets were enough.

A good friend offered him a business opportunity with Nuance Communications in Mahwah, New Jersey. The package was too attractive to turn down and gave him the retirement options he wanted.

His NFL career was affiliated with winning more often than not. He has a Super Bowl ring from the Giants' 39-20 victory over Denver in 1987. When he was with Pittsburgh, the Steelers lost to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX and also lost an AFC championship game to San Diego. When he was with the Jets, New York lost the championship game to the Broncos in 1998.

"It was fun," he says. "I was fortunate to coach with teams that were contenders, but the thing I appreciate most, looking back, I had the opportunity to work with the best in ownership: the Maras and the Giants, the Rooneys and the Steelers, and Leon Hess with the Jets."

An interesting footnote in his career took place in San Diego. After his first season with the Chargers, Prothro was fired and was replaced by Don Coryell. Before Hodgson joined Perkins in New York, Coryell asked Hodgson if he would stay behind a few days and tutor an assistant coach he was bringing in from San Diego State to replace Hodgson as receivers coach. The coach? Joe Gibbs!

These and other notable vignettes make him one of Georgia's most successful former players who pursued a coaching career. But nothing will ever surpass his being the conduit, the link, the centerpiece of one of the greatest plays between the hedges.