1980 Football Recruiting in the Peach State


By Charlie Norris

Photo by Danny Bishop

Everybody knows Herschel Walker was the #1 high school football prospect in the State of Georgia in the 1980 signing class, but who were the other top prospects in the Peach State that year? Today let’s take a nostalgic look back at the 1980 prospects in Georgia.

During the 1980 recruiting season, the Atlanta Journal Constitution asked nine southern college football coaching staffs (UGA, Ga Tech, Auburn, Bama, Clemson, South Carolina, UT, FSU, and UF) to each submit a list of their primary 15 high school football prospects in Georgia. ‘Reckon they’d even consider doing such a poll today? No way!!’ Moving right along, only one Georgian’s name appeared on all nine lists—yep, the great Herschel Walker!! Here is the list along with how many votes each received (the number of different college lists their name appeared on). How many names do you old-timers remember? Hope you enjoy!! (UGA signees noted by ***).

1980 Top 30:

***Herschel Walker, RB, Johnson County—9 votes
Philip Ebinger, Lineman, Marist—8 votes
Jeff Jackson, LB, Griffin—8 votes
***Freddie Gilbert, Lineman, Griffin—7 votes
John Bond, QB, Valdosta—7 votes
***Landy Ewing, Lineman, Tift County—7 votes
Quincy Williams, TE, Douglas County—5 votes
David Scandrett, Lineman, North Cobb—5 votes
Tommy Rose, Lineman, Peachtree—5 votes
***Darryl Jones, QB, Carver-Columbus—5 votes
***Todd Milton, Lineman, Deerfield-Albany—5 votes
***Winford Hood, Lineman, Therrell—4 votes
Ken Brown, QB, Hart County—4 votes
***Warren Gray, Lineman, Fayette County—4 votes
Rusty Shellhouse, Lineman, Americus—3 votes
***Charley Dean, QB, Clarke Central—3 votes
***Jimmy Harper, Lineman, Dodge County—3 votes
Robert Olderman, Lineman, Marist—3 votes
Jeff Suttle, DB, LaFayette—3 votes
Daryl Purvine, LB, Campbell-Smyrna—2 votes
Dante Bramblett, LB, Forest Park—2 votes
***Stan Dooley, LB, Stephens County—2 votes
Willie Ward, Back, Jackson—2 votes
Bobby Glover, RB, Murphy—2 votes
Jack Westbrook, RB, Westminster—2 votes
Bobby Davis, QB, Warner Robins—2 votes
Mark Heninger, Lineman, Redan—2 votes
Marty Heninger, Lineman, Redan—2 votes
Jimmy Walsh, Lineman, Benedictine—2 votes
Josh Starks, DL, Clarke County—2 votes

1980 Best of the Rest

Lloyd Wofford, LB, Druid Hills—1 vote
Robert Horton, LB, Metter—1 vote
John Houston, LB, Columbia—1 vote
David Ponder, Lineman, Cairo—1 vote
***Roy Curtis, Lineman, Southeast Whitfield—1 vote
Mike White, Lineman, Southwest Dekalb—1 vote
James Farr, Lineman, Thomson—1 vote
Randy Kirk, Lineman, Sprayberry—1 vote
Reid Ingle, Lineman, Calhoun—1 vote
Todd Milton, RB, Jefferson—1 vote
***Barry Young, RB, Swainsboro—1 vote
Herbert Butler, RB, Brookwood-Thomasville—1 vote
Tyrone Davis, QB, Cedar Shoals—1 vote
Billy Prince, QB, Glenn Hills—1 vote
***Tommy Lewis, QB, Dunwoody—1 vote
Tommy Carroll, WR, Dunwoody—1 vote

More 1980 Recruiting Nostalgia:

(1) Joe Terranova, the nation’s foremost recruiting expert in those days, had his top five RBs in America in 1980 (in no particular order) as: Herschel Walker, Linnie Patrick (Jasper, Alabama), Kerwin Bell (Huntington Beach, California), Freddie Miles (Miami, Florida), and George Shorthose (Columbia, Missouri). All five of those RBs were rated 5 star (highest rating Terranova gave). Terranova had sixteen 4 star RBs across America on his list (including George Wonsley who went to Mississippi State and Lorenzo Hampton who went to UF). Other notable Terranova 1980 RBs were Melvin Simmons (3 star) who went to UGA, Scott Williams (2 star) who went to UGA, and Mike Rozier (3 star) who went to Nebraska.

(2) In 1980, the highest rated QB prospect in the the Peach State was only a junior, Ken Hobby from Tift County.

(3) In 1980, when Valdosta QB John Bond signed with Mississippi State, he became the third QB from Valdosta in three years to sign a major college football scholarship (in 1979 John Lastinger signed with UGA, and in 1978 Buck Belue signed with UGA).

(4) In 1980, Terranova had UGA with the tenth best recruiting class in America. He had Ohio State at #1, Bama at #2, Texas A&M at #3, Texas at #4, Notre Dame at #5, UF at #6, Nebraska at #7, UNC at #8, and Oklahoma at #9.

In conclusion, recruiting was popular in 1980, but only for the die-hard recruitniks. Communication was by long distance phone calls, with high monthly telephone bills every December and January for the recruitniks. On Signing Day many Bulldog recruitniks gathered at the Frog Pond Lounge in Athens to celebrate the young high school  athletes inking with UGA, and share recruiting stories. Following recruiting then was nothing like it is today. I still believe two key things that happened back then remains as the foundation today for the fascination and popularity of football recruiting. First was Joe Terranova, who published national recruiting lists, was the pioneer of recruiting. Second was Herschel Walker, who was known nationally, but kept all of America holding their breath until Easter (long after Signing Day) to announce the college of his choice. Many TV stations interrupted their regular afternoon programming to announce Herschel choosing UGA. That was huge recruiting news back then, especially for UGA fans. And, if I may add, Man did Herschel lived up to his hype or what?