The story of the Pig 5, Bulldog pranksters

Published 11:03 am Thursday, August 27, 2020

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About this time in late August forty years ago, the Classic City of Athens was enduring one of its hottest summers ever which was a time to locate cool quarters and enjoy a cold beer — unless you were one of the Pig 5 miscreants who had allowed a little prank in the spring to segue into thievery with side effects that embarrassed the Bulldog football program.

This is an old story and while it surfaces periodically with the members of the 1980 National Championship team, newcomers who become privy for the first time are treated to a bad news/good news tale that ranks as one of the most interesting in history of college football. The players will tell you emphatically that the bad news of a forgettable episode actually influenced the winning of a national championship.

At the outset there was nothing but consternation and gnashing of teeth — from the president of the University to the athletic director to the head coach to the Dean of the College of Agriculture. The chicanery involved a prized, pure-bred, research pig that was never intended to go anywhere near a barbecue pit.

For background, there was a spring practice tradition that following the G-Day game, the players would gather at a beer and short order joint, Seagraves Restaurant, on the West Side of town for an all-you-can-eat and drink social that made you suspect that the Hell’s Angels had organized the party.

The Seagraves tradition dates back to the fifties. Nobody is certain as to when it actually became a spring happening, but it was well established by the late fifties before the senior members of the 1980 team were born.

Each graduating class was familiar with the Seagraves tradition, which did not always reflect well on the football program. Some players avoided the “drunkfest” because they were teetotalers. Or they had apprehension regarding the roistering atmosphere. If you showed up, you were not much of a buddy if you did not drink until you passed out.

The tradition began to wane when Seagraves went out of business, but there still was a spring practice ending party for succeeding teams which retained the Seagraves moniker.

In the spring of 1980, the team, led by seniors Frank Ros, Scott Woerner, Nat Hudson, Hugh Nall and Chris Welton wanted to treat their teammates to a party but couldn’t afford to underwrite the cost of a barbecue.

Not too worry. Somebody knew about the pig farm on South campus. Surely nobody in officialdom would miss just one fat pig. One nice sized pig would feed the entire team. There was not a better cook in all of Clarke County than tackle Nat Hudson whose expertise at barbecuing a hog would put Bobby Flay to shame.

The “boys will be boys” gang found a chain-link gate, which became the grill and some charcoal; then stood back and watched Hudson turn raw pork into savory barbecue. Two things that Nat could do better ‘n anybody was to get Herschel to the corner unimpeded and to grill a piece of meat, no matter what it was.

Beer and barbecue with no more spring practice sessions left put everybody in a good mood. The players ate everything but the pig’s head which turned out to be the rest of the story. The Pig 5 believe they might have avoided being caught if a couple of freshmen had not had the idea that it would be funny to put the pig’s head on a bench of the women’s dorm, Brumby Hall, to hear the coeds shriek.

The presence of the hog’s head at Brumby brought the campus cops who by then had heard from the swine researchers that somebody had stolen a prized research animal. It didn’t take long to match the crime with the guilty party.

When the Pig 5 showed up for sentencing in Judge (Vince) Dooley’s court, the verdict was demoralizing: loss of scholarship, go to class in the morning, report to Ray McEwen, supervisor of building and grounds, help sod the field they would play on come fall; paint the seats at the baseball field and then paint both sides of the concrete wall that surrounded the football practice field. After their work day ended around 4 p.m., they joined Coach John Kasay for practice.

Once they finished painting the wall around the practice field, proud they had survived, Dooley showed up in his air-conditioned luxury car for an inspection. Following a seconds-long look, which now bordered on pristine, Dooley smirked, “Looks like it needs another coat.”

Now for the good news: “By the first game, we were the best conditioned five football players in the country,” said Scott Woerner, the All-American defensive back. Suddenly, football practice was a breeze.

Years later when the wall came down on Mark Richt’s watch, Woerner was insulted. He felt the wall represented the bonding that led to the national championship and that it should have remained in place as a tribute to the ’80 team. “I was offended that the wall came down,” Woerner admits.

There is a footnote that gives the story a “coup-de-twist.” When the wall came down, each of the Pig 5 got one of the cinder blocks which Dooley signed, “Looks like it needs another coat.”