Georgia’s return to the Rose Bowl and berth in the college football national championship game put Charley Trippi back in the spotlight.
The 96-year-old Pittston High School graduate could be seen on ESPN New Year’s Day, talking about his memories of the Bulldogs’ only previous trip to Pasadena exactly 75 years earlier when he was the game’s Most Outstanding Player. Trippi was the leading rusher and passer when Georgia knocked off top-ranked UCLA, 9-0, to win the Rose Bowl and a national championship.
As the last living member of that championship team and a long-time resident of Athens, Ga., where the university is located, Trippi is a popular and well-known member of the community. The man whose name graces the stadium at Pittston Area High School in Yatesville also made multiple appearances in the Georgia media in the lead up to the Rose Bowl.
The 54-48, double overtime victory over Oklahoma sent Georgia into Monday night’s championship game against Alabama.
In 1943, long before the playoff era, the shutout of UCLA wrapped up the championship for the Bulldogs.
“It was quite an event,” Trippi said in a telephone interview. “It was something that I dreamed about playing in for years and then, here I am, in the Rose Bowl.
“It’s a great scene to be a participant in a Rose Bowl game.”
Trippi went on to star in two more New Year’s Day bowl wins after spending two years serving in World War II. He also went on to earn induction into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
The win over UCLA, however, represented somewhat of a breakthrough performance for Trippi.
Teammate Frankie Sinkwich, the Heisman Trophy winner, went into the game with two sprained ankles, greatly reducing his ability to help the Bulldogs. Trippi took over as the main ballcarrier and passer.
Trippi played both halfback and quarterback in the single wing offense. He ran for 115 yards on 27 carries and passed for 96 more.
Throughout the bowl season, Trippi said he remains an “avid watcher” of college football.
Peggy Trippi, Charley’s wife, said that until some health issues finally changed their routine this past fall, they had been attending Georgia home games for years.
“We’d go three hours early so he could do meet-and-greets and the athletic director arranged for him to sit in one of the boxes,” Peggy said.
Trippi put together an impressive list of athletic accomplishments after leaving Pittston.
As a senior, Trippi won two of the major awards as the nation’s top college player, claiming the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Trophy, but finishing second to Army’s Glenn Davis in voting for the 1946 Heisman Trophy. Trippi was the number-one pick of the National Football League Draft by the Chicago Cardinals. As a rookie, Trippi led the Cardinals to the NFL title, scoring two touchdowns and producing 206 total yards in a 28-21 championship game win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Trippi, who also punted, returned kicks and played safety during his NFL career, is the only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame with more than 1,000 career yards rushing, passing and receiving.
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