By Pat Edwards
Ramblin' Reck Club
Any discussion of Tech Football players must begin with the immortal backfield of Coach John Heisman's National Championship team of 1917 (9-0-0). Al Hill, Everett Strupper, Joe Guyon and Judy (umm yes Judy) Harlan, known collectively as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Tech fans and the Atlanta papers, were responsible for scoring 491 points during a season where their opponents scored only a total of 17.
That year the Golden Tornado ran up the scores on several teams, gaining national recognition for defeating Heisman's alma mater, Pennsylvania, 41-0, Carlisle, 98-0, Vanderbilt, 83-0, and, on Thanksgiving Day, Auburn, 68-7.
After graduating from Tech the four horsemen continued to contribute their talents to the Institute. Everett Strupper, who later became an insurance salesman, devised an ingenious method for raising money for Tech during the financially strapped depression years by offering life insurance policies to Tech alumni where the annuities from the invested money was transferred to Tech. The idea gave alumni peace of mind by offering their families insurance protection during the national financial crisis, and at the same time giving them a vehicle for contributing to Tech while most colleges and universities were starved for money.
For three year William Alexander, who was later become Head Coach after Heisman, acted as the `Captain of the Scrubs', or JV captain, for Heisman. Alexander, who entered Tech in 1906 at the age of 16, entered the games between Tech and Clemson and Georgia long enough to earn his varsity letter in 1912. After serving in France in World War II he returned to Tech as an assistant coach before becoming head coaching in 1920.
Under Alexander, a half-back, Stumpy Thomason, compiled a legendary record of his own, including the `defense' of Roy Reigel, a player for the University of California, who ran an interception 64 yards, (the wrong way), for a Tech touchdown in the 1929 Rose Bowl, helping Tech to their first Bowl victory. But, as perhaps Stumpy would prefer it, he is most remembered for his four-legged contribution to Tech, Stumpy's Bear, Bruin.
In 1942 a truly great player hit Tech campus, Clint Castleberry. Castleberry, who played as a freshman due to wartime rules, came in third in the Heisman trophy voting for that year. A small man (5'9, 155 lbs.), he was passed over by many of the big name universities in football. He was, however, described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as running like a "Crazed Jackrabbit", Wayne Millner, a scout for Notre Dame warned the legendary Coach Frank Leahy that Southbend was about to be invaded by the "most dangerous runner in America." Many felt that he was well on his way to being the best Tech player, ever, but, in 1943, Castleberry chose to enlist in the US Army Air Corps and, on November 7, 1944, Election Day, Clint's B-26 Airplane was lost over North Africa, and he was never heard from again. To this day his Jersey number, 19, is still the only one ever to have been retired by Georgia Tech Football.
Four Head Coaches of the Yellow Jackets have also started at Georgia Tech as players, including Coach Alexander. Bill Fulcher, class of '57, coached from 1972 through 1973 compiling a record of 12-10-1. Coach Pepper Rodgers commanded the flats from 1974 until 1979 for a career 34-31-2; Bill Curry coached from 1980 to 1986, for a 31-43-4 record.
An NCAA record for the most yards rushing in a single game was set by Eddie Lee Ivery on November 11, 1978 in the 42-21 victory over Air Force in Colorado Springs. The weather was so inclement, (20 with a 20 mph wind), that Ivery was doubled over in pain on the side lines between plays, but he was able to compile 122 yards rushing in 12 carries by half time, and finished the game with 356 total yards rushing, and the record.
The players that have made up Tech football over the last 102 years are ones that we can all take pride in. As the current year starts, we can look forward to the 1995 Yellow Jackets under the team leadership of co-captains Ryan Stewart and Michael Cheever filling the shoes left to them with style.
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