Columnist: Bob Taylor and the ‘flea flicker’ legend

Rich Simpson - Contributing columnist

Rich Simpson

Contributing columnist

My Westside Junior High P.E. class was waiting for the bell to ring before we went to our next class. We were all standing around listening to Coach Bob Miller talk about a LaGrange High player named Bob Taylor.

Coach Miller was singing Bob’s praises. He was a standout, and anyone who watched him play could see his toughness, not to mention speed.

Over the next few years Bob was one of the hometown football stars on Friday nights at the new Callaway Stadium.

Friday nights in my front yard, after the high school games, illuminated by the spotlight on a particular corner of my Gordon Circle home, were fun. The game after the game. I was Bob Taylor. The slower version. His speed was measured with a stopwatch. My speed was measured with a calendar.

I was the star of the second game. It’s amazing what a football wannabe can do with a football, a few neighbors and an imagination.

Bob was voted “Best Back” and “Most Athletic Boy” his senior year in 1962.

That same year he came to Athens for his freshman year without a scholarship.

Bob was not big. At one point he was listed as 5 foot, 10 inches and 185.

I lived on Gordon Circle and Bob lived on Springdale, at the bottom of the hill, right around the corner. I remember passing by his house many times, while he was working out with weights in his garage with his friends.

He got bigger. When he added size to his speed the Georgia Bulldog football team was the beneficiary.

On Sept. 18, 1965, 43,621 football fans entered Sanford Stadium to see the Georgia Bulldogs take on “Bear” Bryant’s No. 5 defending “National Champions” Alabama Crimson Tide.

Vince Dooley was in his second year as the Bulldogs’ head coach.

This would turn out to be a special day with a special play in Georgia Bulldog history.

A year earlier Bob had taken me, my brother Rusty and a few friends over to LaGrange High to play football. Being the class clown, it was my duty to imitate Bob and his teammates lined up in front of the TV camera to be introduced. That’s the way it was done in those days.

My family had just moved back to Charlotte after 12 years in Georgia, and I was home from college for the weekend. ABC was televising the first ever televised football game to originate from Sanford Stadium.

When it was time for the introductions there was my former neighbor Bob Taylor walking up to the TV camera. I was excited to see our hometown boy, but I felt sorry for him and his teammates. The Bulldogs were 7-3-1 overall with a 3-2 SEC record the year before, and Alabama was the reining “National Champion.”

As the game progressed the Bulldogs started to feel more and more confident. They felt like they had a chance.

Late in the fourth quarter Georgia was down 17 to 10 and with the ball.

Dooley called for the “flea flicker,” a play the team had practiced unsuccessfully. Bob Taylor said, years later, he was “scared to death” because of the way the play had gone in practice:

“I would drop the ball or something else would happen.”

One of the greatest plays in Georgia Bulldogs history was about to take place between the hedges! A play that Vince Dooley has said was used in pick-up games in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama.

Georgia Quarterback Kirby Moore took the snap with 2:09 remaining in the game. He threw it to receiver Pat Hodgson who lateraled to Bob Taylor who sprinted 73 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown! That made the score 17 to 16 in favor of Alabama.

Georgia called a time out and 34-year-old head coach Vince Dooley consulted with his brother, offensive coordinator Bill Dooley and the offensive coaches. He then signaled to his team to attempt a two point conversion pass.

Kirby Moore told Pat Hodgson to get open in the back of the end zone. It worked, and the Bulldogs had an 18-17 lead and went on to win the game.

I want to make a heartfelt point about LaGrange’s own Bob Taylor. He was a soft-spoken college superstar who treated everyone with respect. He was a Southern gentleman. At his funeral, Coach Dooley said, when learning Bob was a motivational speaker (Tenneco), “All Bob ever said was three words: ‘Yes sir, coach.’”

One of Bob Taylor’s former LaGrange High teammates summed it up quite well. Jerry Breed reflected:

“Bob was a good guy. Coach Dooley published a book with Georgia’s greatest plays and Bob Taylor and the ‘flea flicker’ play was in the book. I got Bob to autograph a copy, which I gave to my son for Christmas.

The book is a real treasure in the Breed household. I drove to LaGrange with Randy Mahaffey and we took Bob to lunch. We drove around all the old neighborhoods and talked about where everyone lived and who dated who. We went by the high school and talked about football practice. Bob said the practices at LHS were the toughest he could remember.

We talked about the coaches and the impact they had on our lives. We drove down Park Avenue toward Callaway Stadium. We reminisced about riding the team bus to home games and we remembered ‘Woots’ Bridges who was the school custodian and bus driver.

The tradition was to be very quiet and somber on the bus until we crossed the railroad track bridge on Park Avenue. Once over the bridge, everybody on the bus began to yell and say ‘let’s go get ‘em.’ Bob said when he was a little boy he could always imagine making a big play on the football field.

He had lots of big plays, but none bigger than the 73 yard touchdown run against Alabama at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 18, 1965.”

Rich Simpson is a former LaGrange resident and a LaGrange High graduate who worked 42 years in radio. He may be reached at [email protected]

Rich Simpson is a former LaGrange resident and a LaGrange High graduate who worked 42 years in radio. He may be reached at [email protected]

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