Football Short Story
Man of Few Words
Tales from the Gator Swamp: A Collection of the Greatest Gator Stories Ever Told, Jack Hairston
Warren Fair, a Gator letterman at guard in '57, furnished several stories for the book. One of the favorite subjects of Fair was his Gator coach, Bob Woodruff.
"He was a very intelligent person who came out with some of the damnedest things. Someone described Coach Woodruff as the oratorical equivalent of a blocked punt," Fair said. That Woodruff was capable of poking fun at himself was proved when he took that description and applied it to himself often in his talks.
"A lot of people swear he made the same pep talk every game, and he did," Fair said. "Just a few words were different sometimes. I still remember his talks, especially one time when he said, 'Get out there and tackle 'em HARD and block 'em HARD, and don't forget, the team that makes the fewest mistakes always makes the fewest mistakes. ...'
"We were studying film on Wednesday night before the game one week. It was pitch black dark in there, and Coach Woodruff kept running the film backward and forward. Then we all noticed a strange smell in the room. Woodruff smoked cigarettes at the time, and this deep voice of his came out of the dark, 'Lit the wrong end....'"
"When we were scrimmaging, Coach Woodruff constantly would say, 'Run that play back.' One day the players prepared for him to say that after a pitchout from the quarterback to the halfback, and when he said it, the players ran the play backwards, like it would be re-run when you backed the film up. Every player ran backward from downfield back to the huddle. They even had it arranged where the running back pitched the ball forward to the quarterback, and the quarterback ran backwards to his spot under center. It broke everybody up, including the coaches."
Fair said Woodruff may have been his funniest after the Florida-Georgia game of '58. Georgia had about 400y of offense to Florida's 100, but Georgia fouled up consistently in scoring territory, and the Gators won the game, 7-6, on a 78y run by QB Jimmy Dunn.
L-R: Bob Woodruff, Wally Butts, Jimmy Dunn
"Georgia was already mad about the game," Fair said, "and when it was over, Coach Woodruff walked up to shake hands with Wally Butts, Georgia's coach, and said, 'How did you like our offense, Wally?'"
Fists were thrown at some postgame parties because of comments like that, but Butts was able to restrain himself regarding Woodruff's comment. Dick Stratton, Jacksonville TV sports director and a UF graduate, showed up at the Green Derby restaurant in Jacksonville with the game's official statistics about an hour after the game. One of Georgia's assistant coaches was in the room as Stratton read the stats in dramatic fashion, something like this: "First downs, Georgia 18, Florida 4. Rushing yards, Georgia 280, Florida 90. Passing yards, Georgia 120, Florida 10. Total yards, Georgia 400, Florida 100. But the most important statistic of all: Points, Georgia 6, Florida 7."
The Florida fans in the crowd broke into applause, but the Georgia assistant coach jumped up and decked Stratton with a right to the jaw. There's disagreement about who the Georgia assistant was, so his identity is being withhead.