Professionally, William E. Jones, Georgia rover from 1984-88, has gone green, which is understandable. As the executive director of the Augusta National Golf Club, the green at the Masters dominates his life at the office, but in truth every fiber in his body is red and black.
He remembers seeing his first game between the hedges when he was age 5. Will was consumed by Georgia and the traditions with which the school has been long identified – from the chapel bell to Tanyard Creek to the Arch to the hedges of Sanford Stadium.
Today, with his eminent success with one of the most storied sports institutions on the planet, Will has had an exposure to the world that few of his classmates will ever experience. However, the ultimate thrill for him is that he can say with deep and abiding emotion that playing between the hedges and lettering four years for the Dawgs continues to warm his heart each passing year and that it was a high honor to have lettered for Georgia and to have played for Vince Dooley.
Will grew to be tall, which made it natural that, combined with his enduring passion for football, he would give the game a try. Growing up in McDonough, 30 miles south of Atlanta, his parents enrolled him at Woodward Academy, the highly regarded private school near the Atlanta Airport.
Will always had a keen desire to play football. He became the beneficiary of a special opportunity at Woodward. He played for Graham Hixon, one of the most highly regarded coaches in Georgia high school history.
Will did more than excel in football (his leadership skills were evident early on when he captained the football team twice and the basketball teams thrice). He was the consummate all-around student. He was vice president of the student body and won the school’s president’s award his senior year for “Best All-Around Student.” With this precocious young man, you could say, “Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.”
Interestingly, Will usually played some of his best games against South Carolina, never with any clairvoyance that he might wind up living in Augusta and participating in the Border Bash, a locally promoted event with golf, parties and the underscoring of the rivalry between the two state universities whose geography is divided by the Savannah River.
As a senior in 1987, in a nail-biter, the Bulldogs were victorious, 13-7. The visitors never crossed the goal line, totaling six points on two field goals. Richard Tardits, the Frenchman who owes his Georgia experience to an Augusta connection – Biarritz native Edouard Servy, a doctor who settled in Augusta – had one of his finest days as a Bulldog: made seven tackles, caused two interceptions, forced three bad passes, caused one fumble, sacked Carolina quarterback Todd Ellis twice for (-)17 yards, caused one fumble, and, late in the game with everything still in doubt, tipped a Todd Ellis pass, which Will Jones intercepted to seal the victory. Never in this ancient series has the Georgia defense risen to the occasion with greater achievement.
Will modestly gives credit to his height (6-foot-3) for his success on the play. “Myles Smith, John Brantley, and I went for the ball, and my height enabled me to get to it,” he laughs.
It was the case of a Frenchman (Tardits), an Englishman (Smith), a Floridian (Brantley) and a dyed-in-the-wood Bulldog (Jones), saving the day for Georgia. Earlier in the game, Will came up with a sparkling play – that may have been more important than the interception in that the Gamecocks began a drive early in the fourth quarter on their 34-yard-line, which had reached the Bulldogs’ two-yard-line when Will stripped the Carolina ball carrier of the ball as he was stopped at the line of scrimmage.
The Bulldogs recovered and eventually gained field position as the defense won the day. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in its Sunday edition, credited Will Jones with eight tackles and several assists, a high moment for someone who was motivated by love of the game and love of alma mater.
Few Georgia football lettermen have appreciated their scholarship and their time between the hedges more than Will Jones, who lettered for the Bulldogs, 1984-1987. Someday, his epitaph should read “He Was a Damn Good Dawg.”
Loran Smith is an athletic administrator at the University of Georgia.