SMITH COLUMN: Super memories

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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Mecole Hardman will be long remembered when Super Bowl histories are recalled. His three-yard touchdown catch was not that spectacular as spectacular plays go, but what it meant will make him a hero forever.

Then there is the humility of how he figured into the process — down and out in New York but getting a second opportunity with his old team was like a jilted lover being reunited and a broken heart mended.

Add to that the small-town aurora. The population of his hometown of Bowman is 875. His winner’s share of $164,000 for a day work last Sunday is probably greater that the net worth of the entire town.

You find small town boys achieving fame and fortune through the avenue of sports. Stories such as Jerry West and Cabin Creek, West Virginia; Ty Cobb and Narrows, Georgia, Jim Brown and St. Simons Island, Georgia, Herschel Walker, Wrightsville, Georgia, Red Grange, Wheaton, Illinois, Darrell Royal, Hollis, Oklahoma are Walter Mitty stories that never cease to amaze and enthrall us.

Now you can add Mecole’s name to that list. 

I remember when he was being recruited by Georgia. One coach called him “the best football player in America.” Perhaps that was an overstatement but everybody in Bowman today is ready to declare him as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The community is ready to bring about a parade in his honor although with his speed he could run from one side of the town to the other in less time than he could run a hundred-yard dash.

Mecole has always had a smiling, outgoing demeanor which endeared him to his teammates and coaches. 

He is still bringing great smiles to the Kansas City locker-room. When he shows up in Bowman again, however, he will be the small-town boy they knew when he was growing up.  

It will be the same when he returns to Elberton, 12 miles away, where he played high school football for a coach named Sid Fritts who said that Mecole was “not just best player I coached, but he was the best player I ever saw.”

His versatility as an athlete was such that he started out as defensive back at Georgia and then switched to wide receiver, which was the perfect home for him.

In the national championship game with Alabama in 2017, he scored on an 80-yard bomb from Jake Fromm. His junior year in 2018, he caught 34 passes for 532 yards and seven touchdowns. 

Following his rookie year with the Chiefs, I called friends in Kansas City and there were rave reviews about his popularity with Chief fans as his small-town humility made them appreciate him more.

While he made the headlines, it is in order to underscore that one of his teammates who will be getting sized for a ring will be Malik Herring, former Bulldog defender, who was injured for last year’s victory over the Eagles.  He was credited with a tackle and an assist against San Francisco.

This was the 23rd straight year a Georgia player participated in the Super Bowl. The first former Bulldog to win a Super Bowl ring was Zeke Bratkowski, who was the backup quarterback to Barr Starr in Green Bay’s defeat of the Chiefs in Super Bowl I. 

Three former ‘Dawgs have been named MVP of past Super Bowl games: Jake Scott, 1972; Terrell Davis, 1998 and Hines Ward, 2006.

John Rauch, former Georgia quarterback under Wallace Butts coached in the second Super Bowl as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. 

He had two assistants: John Madden was the line coach and Bill Walsh was the backfield coach.