Bill Saye, a man who gave himself to football

Published 7:07 pm Thursday, August 1, 2019

When the members of the Wally’s Boys Association, long-in-the-tooth and gimpy-kneed, gathered last spring, Coach Kirby Smart payed tribute to Treasurer Bill Saye for his enduring and tireless labor of love in managing the annual breakfast. 

When you consider Bill’s life, it has always been about Georgia.               

Of all the Bulldog lettermen I have known over the years, none had more ungrudging loyalty than Bill. The work ethic was a badge of courage and playing for Georgia and Wallace Butt was high honor. When the dust settled on his college career, he would have a degree. 

A three-year letterman during the Butts era, Bill became a Marine following graduation. “Semper Fidelis,” “Fortitudine” and courage, corps and country; “The Blood Stripe” down the legs of his trousers meant something to Bill, same as wearing silver britches between the hedges.

Before embarking to California for basic training, Bill became a football season ticket buyer. 

After serving his country, Bill became a coach at Hart County. He is still revered in Hartwell today. He didn’t just coach. He was a teacher who invested into his community. His leadership skills, which he learned from football and the Marine Corps, brought him high standing in Hartwell.

His teams were successful. He made friends in Hartwell, which is best reflected by the decision of Hart County Schools to name the baseball stadium for Bill a few years ago. Hartwell kids enjoyed playing for Bill because he was good at teaching fundamentals.

Bill played for a Butts disciple, Weyman Sellers, at Athens High which meant that he played in Sanford Stadium on Friday nights, a treasured memory. (As a boy, he also played in the culvert underneath the field in Tanyard Creek, which flows the length of the stadium.)

When he finished high school and signed with Georgia, he and his good friend, Willie Fowler were invited to scrimmage against the varsity, an exercise not exactly compatible with the rules. Nonetheless, they worked tirelessly and were often making head turning plays to the assistant coaches’ delight. “Look,” they would say to varsity players, “you are letting those little ole high school boys knock you on your (anatomy).”

Bill didn’t just give the Wally’s Boys an organizational touch, spending countless hours to make the association better, he found time to volunteer in the community. In addition to the hospital, he became a volunteer for the Touchdown Club of Athens and the Georgia chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.

With another season starting and the high expectations surrounding the Georgia team, I am swooning, like the rest of the populace, with heightened anticipation. I want it to be a memorable season for former lettermen like Bill Saye. 

Now in his sunset years, he can look back and be proud that he helped build the tradition Georgia enjoys today. I want Georgia to win for Georgia and its loyal brethren. 

I want Georgia to win for Kirby Smart. I also want Georgia to win for friends like Bill Saye who has given of himself and has never found fault with those who ran the show.