Georgia Tech Football Mount Rushmore

In LastWordOnSports ongoing Mount Rushmore series, we take MARTA to Midtown Atlanta for a look at the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Tucked away in Midtown Atlanta, the Georgia Tech football program has a silent history juxtaposed to their noisy surroundings and namesake. The Ramblin’ Wreck has four recognized National Championships according to the College Football Data Warehouse, the third most of southern programs behind only Alabama and Miami. Throughout their history, they’ve been led by legendary coaches and players who make the case for all-time great at their respective positions.

In doing this Mount Rushmore series, I personally haven’t been too keen on including coaches. Now, in the era of football coaches being the highest paid employees in their respective states and the practice of bailing on programs upon looming NCAA investigations, a coach’s career can be spread out across multiple programs, making it difficult to link their legacy to just one.

However, there is one coach in particular that at least deserves some mention.

John Heisman’s Legacy At Georgia Tech

John Heisman‘s coaching career is spread over multiple schools, but his 16 year tenure at Georgia Tech was the longest in his career. Hired away from rival Clemson in 1904, Heisman quickly had the Georgia Tech football program moving up, like an elevator, in the world of college football. The Yellow Jackets won their first National Championship in 1917 with Heisman at the helm. That capped off a career for Heisman, at Tech, in which the Yellow Jackets posted three undefeated seasons, held a 32-game winning streak which included five consecutive wins against Georgia and the infamous 222-0 shutout of Cumberland College in 1916. Heisman would also coach baseball and basketball for the school as well.

Heisman’s legacy is bigger than the Yellow Jackets Mount Rushmore and even the sport of college football itself. He is easily the most recognizable name in college football; even 80 years after his death and his legacy lives on in the most coveted individual prize in the sport, the Heisman Trophy. His legend is a big as Mount Everest itself and for that reason is excluded off of this mountainside.

Georgia Tech Football Mount Rushmore

Robert “Bobby” Dodd, Coach (1945-1966)

Continuing our break from the norm, no Georgia Tech football Mount Rushmore would be complete without including coach Bobby Dodd.

A legendary player at the University of Tennessee, Georgia Tech hired Dodd as an assistant in 1930, and promoted him to head coach in 1945. In 1952 Dodd would coach the Yellow Jackets to an undefeated 12-0 season and a national championship, with two additional unclaimed titles in 1951 and 1956. His all-time record is 165-64-8 which includes a 9-4 bowl record. Referred to as “Dodd’s Luck,” he was able to turn the Yellow Jackets football team into one of the premier programs in the rising south. Dodd was instrumental in the integration of football in the south when he signed Eddie McAshan who was the first African American to start for a major southern university in 1970.

Dodd’s coaching style has often been described as soft-handed because he focused on the mental aspects of the game as opposed to the brute style of the sport. During a time of purposeful over recruiting by other SEC schools, Dodd refused to comply with the unfair practice. This led to a feud with Alabama and the the Tide’s coach Bear Bryant that ultimately culminated in Georgia Tech leaving the SEC in 1964. The Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award was established in 1976 and in 1988, the Georgia Tech football stadium was named in his honor.

George Morris, Linebacker (1950-1952)

The captain of the 1952 National Championship team, George Morris, was one of the first Georgia Tech greats to play under Coach Dodd, leading the defensive unit of the team Dodd called “the best [he] ever coached.”

In addition to their National Championship, Morris anchored a defense that only allowed five points per game in 1952. He recorded 114 tackles that season while earning first-team All-SEC and All-American honors. During his Junior and Senior seasons, the Yellow Jackets would finish with a nearly perfect record of 23-0-1 which included two SEC championships and victories in the Orange and Sugar bowls, respectively.

Morris was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 1953 NFL Draft. However, he would not play until the 1956 season after serving for the US Army in Korea as part of his military obligation. In 1955 he was inducted in the inaugural class of the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame and in 1981 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. At the time of his death in 2007, Morris was president of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year foundation, punctuating his importance to Georgia Tech football and his link to coach Dodd.

Joe Hamilton, Quarterback (1996-1999)

The run-heavy triple-option offense is synonymous with Georgia Tech football, but there may never be another quarterback like Joe Hamilton to suit up for the Ramblin’ Wreck.

A four-year starter, Hamilton set all-time Georgia Tech football passing records in career yards (8,882) and touchdowns (65), as well as most passing touchdowns in a season (29). Hamilton’s total career offensive yardage of 10,640 ranks third all-time in the ACC and his 83 total touchdowns stand as the all-time high for Georgia Tech football. A consensus first-team All-American selection, Hamilton won the Davey O’Brien Award and finished second in Heisman voting his senior year. Hamilton is a member of the ACC 50th Anniversary Team and in 2014 he became the 13th former Yellow Jacket to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Hamilton won a Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while on injured reserved after tearing his ACL playing for the Frankfurt Galaxy of the NFL Europe. In 2006 he was the starting quarterback of the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators, and he guided them to an appearance in ArenaBowl XX. Had Orlando won, Hamilton would have become the first player to win a Super Bowl and an ArenaBowl. He currently works as a recruiting assistant for the Yellow Jackets.

Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver (2004-2006)

By far the most recognizable player in Georgia Tech football history, Calvin Johnson displayed talents, while playing for the Yellow Jackets, that earned him the name Megatron in the NFL.

Johnson was ACC Rookie of the Year and earned the first of three first-team all-ACC honors after setting a Georgia Tech freshman receiving record of 837 yards and seven touchdowns. He had another outstanding year in 2005 but it was in 2006 that he broke out, winning the 2006 Biletnikoff Award after amassing 76 catches for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns, the latter of which set a Georgia Tech football season record.

The Detroit Lions selected Johnson second overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. In Johnson’s second season he led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (12), though the Lions would infamously finish the season with a 0-16 record. Megatron earned the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl nods in 2010. In 2012, he led the league in receiving yards for the second consecutive year and set the NFL record for yards in a season (1,964). Upon his retirement in March, Johnson holds the Lions franchise records for career  touchdowns (83), yards (11,619) and receptions (731). Johnson’s abrupt retirement while in the prime of his career draws similarities to fellow Detroit Lion and college great Barry Sanders. Sanders abruptly retired before the start of the 1999 season.

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