Southern Comfort: Pittston’s Trippi went to Georgia, began HOF football career

By Tom Robinson - For Times Leader | December 31st, 2017 6:51 pm

ABOUT CHARLEY TRIPPI

At 96, Charley Trippi is the oldest living member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

He was the number-one pick in the 1945 National Football League Draft by the Chicago Cardinals, the team he eventually played for, but remained in Georgia after World War II to complete his college studies and playing career.

Although he received the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Trophy as college football’s top player in 1946, Trippi finished second in Heisman Trophy voting to Army’s Glenn Davis.

Before reporting to the NFL’s Cardinals, he played one summer of minor-league baseball, hitting .343 for the Altanta Crackers in 106 games.

He passed up offers to continue his baseball career from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Trippi had 206 total yards, including two punt returns for 102 yards, and scored two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 28-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL Championship Game.

When he retired, Trippi was the NFL’s career leader in total offense.

Along with playing halfback, then quarterback, he also played safety, punted and returned kicks in the NFL.

During his NFL career, he did it all, rushing for 3,506 yards and 22 touchdowns; catching 130 passes for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns; passing for 2,547 yards and 16 touchdowns; returning kicks for 2,321 yards while averaging 22.1 yards on kickoffs and 13.7 on punts; averaging 40.4 yards per punt; and intercepting four passes.

He is the only Hall of Famer and one of only three men in NFL history with more than 1,000 yards rushing, passing and receiving.

Following his return to Athens, he became a successful businessman in retail and real estate.

In 2007, ESPN named Trippi number 20 on its list of the top 25 players in college football history.

Trippi’s father, who worked as a miner and originally discouraged his son’s interest in football, only saw him play twice.

Following the death of Virginia, his first wife and mother of his three children, in 1971, Trippi married Peggy in February, 1978.

The Arizona Cardinals honored Trippi, then 91, at a home game in December of 2012 as part of the franchise’s celebration of the 50thanniversary of the Hall of Fame.

Georgia’s roster for this year’s Rose Bowl includes Frank Sinkwich IV, the great grandson of 1942 Heisman Trophy winner and Trippi backfield mate Frankie Sinkwich.

When Georgia takes on Oklahoma on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl and NCAA semifinal game, the interested observers will include Charley Trippi from his home in Athens, Ga.

It has been exactly 75 years since Georgia made its only previous Rose Bowl appearance with Trippi earning the Helms Award as the Most Outstanding Player in a 9-0 win over UCLA on New Year’s Day 1943, making Georgia the national champion for the 1942 season.

“It was quite an event,” the 96-year-old Trippi said in a telephone interview Friday. “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, who made his way to Georgia after being an outstanding athlete at Pittston High School, made the most of the opportunity with the first of three standout bowl performances.

It was a different era and style of play when Georgia dominated the game with a 24-5 advantage in first downs, but was still battling in a scoreless tie until the fourth quarter.

With Heisman Trophy winner Frankie Sinkwich limited by two sprained ankles, Trippi, a sophomore — wearing number 62 while playing halfback and quarterback in the single wing offense — took on an increased workload and kept the Bulldogs in control. He carried 27 times for 115 yards and passed for 96 more.

Following a safety off a blocked punt, a Trippi run to the 1 set up the game’s only touchdown by Sinkwich.

Trippi, who was considered undersized by some eastern and northern recruiters who were less interested in him during his Pittston days, headed south to get started on a career full of major college and professional accomplishments, including induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“That was a great event,” Trippi said. “I think everybody who plays the game would like to be in the Rose Bowl and Hall of Fame.”

At the time Trippi led the second-ranked Bulldogs over the top-ranked Bruins for the national title, he was beginning to find a new home. He never left Georgia and, after his professional career, it was Athens where Trippi bought the home he has lived in since 1960, allowing him to closely follow his alma mater.

Nearly eight decades removed from living in Pittston – “I left Pittston right after I graduated” – Trippi’s memories of his original home are fading and he has lost the close friends he had in the region through the years. He does take pride in knowing, however, that the Pittston Area Patriots play their high school football games on the school’s campus in Yatesville at a stadium that bears Trippi’s name.

“I enjoy that,” he said.

College bowl games have changed through the decades, growing in numbers and format, allowing Georgia to return to the Rose Bowl, something that was impossible when the game was strictly Big Ten champion vs. Pac-8, Pac-10 or Pac-12 champion.

Trippi is not one to complain about the proliferation of bowl games. He says he is an “avid watcher” during the bowl season.

Bowl season – and New Year’s Day in particular – has been a special time to Trippi since his playing days.

The first trip took three days to cross the country by train and with attention on World War II, few fans made their way from Georgia to California.

After missing the next two college seasons while he served in the war, Trippi played the 1946 Oil Bowl, leading Georgia to a 20-6 win over Tulsa. He threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to John Donaldson and scored on a spectacular 68-yard punt return in which he reversed field, then ran over potential tacklers along the sideline.

Trippi made it 3-for-3 in bowl bames when he played every snap – offense, defense and special teams – in a 20-10 victory over North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. The win completed a perfect season for Georgia and Trippi’s college career, paving the way for him to play 100 games over the next nine seasons with the National Football League’s Chicago Cardinals.

While showing off the versatility he was known for, Trippi threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Dan Edwards in the third quarter to put Georgia ahead to stay.

The college portion of his career was over, but Trippi remained a legend through the years in and around Athens.

Trippi stayed in the spotlight and his viewing of the Bulldogs was often done in person up until the 2017 season when some health issues altered that routine.

“Before this year, we had gone to every game for years,” Trippi’s wife, Peggy, said. “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.”

Though hearing issues provided some limitations in a telephone interview, Trippi is generally doing well. The last living member of the 1942 Rose Bowl champions enjoyed the attention and interviews in the local Georgia media as stories of a game 75 years ago have been shared in the days leading up to the Bulldogs’ return to Pasadena.

Charley Trippi signs memorabilia during Georgia’s 1st Pitch Banquet to kick off the Men’s Baseball season at the Classic Center on Feb. 11, 2016, in Athens, Ga.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Charley-Trippi-AUTOGRAPH_CMYK.jpgCharley Trippi signs memorabilia during Georgia’s 1st Pitch Banquet to kick off the Men’s Baseball season at the Classic Center on Feb. 11, 2016, in Athens, Ga. University of Georgia Athletics
Trippi baseball
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Charley-Trippi-BASEBALL-BW.jpgTrippi baseball University of Georgia Athletics
Trippi
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Charley-Trippi-BW-SOLO-PHOTO.jpgTrippi University of Georgia Athletics
Charley Trippi during Georgia’s baseball game against Georgia Southern on Opening Day Feb. 15, 2014 at Foley Field in Athens, Ga.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Charley-Trippi-DUGOUT_CMYK.jpgCharley Trippi during Georgia’s baseball game against Georgia Southern on Opening Day Feb. 15, 2014 at Foley Field in Athens, Ga. University of Georgia Athletics
Former Georgia player Charley Trippi, a two-time All-Amercian, receives a College Football Hall of Fame ring during an NCAA college football game between Georgia and Georgia Tech on Nov. 29, 2014, in Athens, Ga.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Charley-Trippi-HOF_CMYK.jpgFormer Georgia player Charley Trippi, a two-time All-Amercian, receives a College Football Hall of Fame ring during an NCAA college football game between Georgia and Georgia Tech on Nov. 29, 2014, in Athens, Ga. David Tulis | AP Photo
UGA legend Charley Trippi throws out the first pitch during Georgia’s baseball game against Georgia Southern on Opening Day Feb. 15, 2014 at Foley Field in Athens, Ga.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Chrley-Trippi-FIRST-PITCH_CMYK.jpgUGA legend Charley Trippi throws out the first pitch during Georgia’s baseball game against Georgia Southern on Opening Day Feb. 15, 2014 at Foley Field in Athens, Ga. University of Georgia Athletics
The backfield tandem of Charley Trippi, left, and Frank Sinkwich, led Georgia to a 1943 Rose Bowl victory 75 years ago today.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Frank-Sinkwich-Charley-Trippi-BW.jpgThe backfield tandem of Charley Trippi, left, and Frank Sinkwich, led Georgia to a 1943 Rose Bowl victory 75 years ago today. University of Georgia Athletics
After leaving Pittston, Charley Trippi headed south and begin a Hall of Fame college and pro career

By Tom Robinson

For Times Leader

ABOUT CHARLEY TRIPPI

At 96, Charley Trippi is the oldest living member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

He was the number-one pick in the 1945 National Football League Draft by the Chicago Cardinals, the team he eventually played for, but remained in Georgia after World War II to complete his college studies and playing career.

Although he received the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Trophy as college football’s top player in 1946, Trippi finished second in Heisman Trophy voting to Army’s Glenn Davis.

Before reporting to the NFL’s Cardinals, he played one summer of minor-league baseball, hitting .343 for the Altanta Crackers in 106 games.

He passed up offers to continue his baseball career from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Trippi had 206 total yards, including two punt returns for 102 yards, and scored two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 28-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL Championship Game.

When he retired, Trippi was the NFL’s career leader in total offense.

Along with playing halfback, then quarterback, he also played safety, punted and returned kicks in the NFL.

During his NFL career, he did it all, rushing for 3,506 yards and 22 touchdowns; catching 130 passes for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns; passing for 2,547 yards and 16 touchdowns; returning kicks for 2,321 yards while averaging 22.1 yards on kickoffs and 13.7 on punts; averaging 40.4 yards per punt; and intercepting four passes.

He is the only Hall of Famer and one of only three men in NFL history with more than 1,000 yards rushing, passing and receiving.

Following his return to Athens, he became a successful businessman in retail and real estate.

In 2007, ESPN named Trippi number 20 on its list of the top 25 players in college football history.

Trippi’s father, who worked as a miner and originally discouraged his son’s interest in football, only saw him play twice.

Following the death of Virginia, his first wife and mother of his three children, in 1971, Trippi married Peggy in February, 1978.

The Arizona Cardinals honored Trippi, then 91, at a home game in December of 2012 as part of the franchise’s celebration of the 50thanniversary of the Hall of Fame.

Georgia’s roster for this year’s Rose Bowl includes Frank Sinkwich IV, the great grandson of 1942 Heisman Trophy winner and Trippi backfield mate Frankie Sinkwich.


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