Bobby Pope

Sapp part of Tech-Georgia lore

The “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” football rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech will be renewed this weekend in Athens.

The Bulldogs are looking for their sixth straight win in the series and their 13th in the past 14 years. The Yellow Jackets, who haven’t beaten the Bulldogs since head coach Paul Johnson’s first season in Atlanta in 2008, dominated the series in the 1950s, winning a record eight straight games.

Theron Sapp played fullback at Lanier, on one of the most heralded backfields in Macon prep football history, during the 1953 season.

But he wasn’t the headliner on that squad. That designation belonged to Billy Kitchens, who was named to the All-Southern team and was Georgia back of the year.

Rounding out the Lanier backfield were quarterback Sam Vickers and halfback Johnny Stallings. That quartet led Lanier to an 11-0 record and trip to the Class AA final that season where they lost to the Erk Russell-coached Grady Knights 9-6 at Porter Stadium.

All four Lanier backfield standouts signed major college scholarships.

Kitchens went to Auburn, where he was a member of the Tigers’ 1957 national championship team, Vickers and Stallings both signed with South Carolina and Sapp cast his fortunes with the Georgia Bulldogs.

In the spring of his senior year of high school in 1954, Sapp suffered a broken neck in a swimming pool accident and was fortunate to have ever played football again. In today’s game, he probably wouldn’t have been cleared by doctors to do so.

Sapp was a reserve on the 1956 Georgia team and was the starting fullback for 1957-58, earning All-SEC honors both seasons. He was a third-team SEC choice in 1957 and a second-team selection a year later.

In checking the Georgia statistical record book, you won’t find his named mentioned, as he had only 599 yards rushing on 137 carries as a senior when he served as team captain. Yet he is one of Georgia’s all-time legends and is one of only four Georgia players to have their jersey numbers retired, joining Charlie Trippi (62), Frankie Sinkwich (21) and Herschel Walker (34). Sapp wore number 40.

His legendary status came about as the result of one play, a 1-yard run against Georgia Tech in 1957 to beat the Yellow Jackets 7-0.

As a result of that touchdown, he will be forever known as the “Drought Breaker.”

What is not generally known is that Sapp, playing in the defensive secondary, set up the Georgia scoring drive earlier in that quarter by recovering a Georgia Tech fumble at midfield.

Even though Sapp’s greatest fame came as a result of the touchdown to beat Georgia Tech and end Georgia’s eight-game losing streak, he was overall a pretty good football player. Following his senior season at Georgia, he was MVP in both the Senior Bowl and Blue-Gray postseason games, and he was a 10th-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1958 NFL draft.

He played with the Eagles from 1959-63 and with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1963-65. He was a member of Philadelphia’s 1960 NFL championship team.

Following his football playing days, Sapp was in the restaurant business in Augusta, and at one time had a Maryland Fried Chicken location on Hillcrest Boulevard off Napier Avenue in Macon.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com.

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