Bobby Pope

The quarterback who became governor

Sarah and Van Herrington, left, brought a program from the 1965 season to share with the team’s quarterback, a guy with a good arm, Sonny Perdue, who was quick to point out his old No. 12 Demons jersey.
Sarah and Van Herrington, left, brought a program from the 1965 season to share with the team’s quarterback, a guy with a good arm, Sonny Perdue, who was quick to point out his old No. 12 Demons jersey.

Warner Robins has had one of the most outstanding football programs in the state for the past five decades. Going back to 1967 the program has had just two losing seasons — 3-7 in 2007 and 2-8 in 2010.

But that was not the case in the Demons’ early years starting with their first season in 1953 and going through 1966 when they had just two winning campaigns. They went 6-3 in that first year and 6-3-1 in 1956. Between 1953 and 1966 Warner Robins had an overall record of 36-97-7 as compared to 454-120-4 from 1967 through the 2015 season.

From 1962 through 1964, the Demons compiled a 5-24-1 record when future Georgia governor George “Sonny” Perdue was playing. The 1962 team had a 2-8 record, the 1963 team was 0-10, while scoring just 18 points the entire season, and the 1964 squad finished at 3-6-1 as it won its final two games, beating Jordan 28-7 and Northside 25-6. Perdue played both offense and defense for the Demons and was a part-time starter at quarterback as a junior and a full-time starter as a senior.

Even with that dismal record his senior year, Perdue was good enough to earn honorable mention All-State honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As a senior, he set a GHSA Region 1-AAA record for passing, exceeding the previous mark by 200 yards. Perdue connected on 88-of-173 passes for a 50.8 completion percentage mark and a total of 1,424 yards. He had 12 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions.

In the final two games of the 1964 season, Perdue connected on 22-of-37 for 468 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Jordan, he was 11-of-14 for 230 yards with touchdown passes of 24, 28, 4 and 50 yards. In the first varsity game ever played between Northside and Warner Robins, Perdue closed out his career by connecting on 11-of-23 for 238 yards and

touchdown passes of 3, 68 and 28 yards.

Following his senior season, Perdue walked on with the 1965 Georgia freshman class, which included future All-American and All-Pro Bill Stanfill, as well as future Atlanta Olympics head and current Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne. Perdue was one of nine quarterbacks on that freshman team and moved over to the secondary. He saw action in all four of the freshman games, but his time was limited. That Georgia freshman team battled Clemson to a tie at 6 and beat Auburn 24-0, Florida 13-7 and Georgia Tech 18-0.

Perdue gave up football after one year and concentrated on his studies, earning a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Georgia in 1971.

Perdue briefly got into the football coaching ranks, even though it was just on the silver screen, when he occupied the governor’s mansion. He was cast as East Carolina head coach Mike McGee in the 2006 movie “We are Marshall,” making a cameo appearance.

Perdue is one of three former Georgia governors to play college football. Carl Sanders, the state’s chief executive officer from 1963-67, was a backup left-handed quarterback for Georgia, lettering in 1945, and Jimmy Carter, the governor from 1971-75, played on the Naval Academy’s sprint intercollegiate team. To be eligible for the sprint team a player must weigh fewer than 172 pounds and have no more than 5 percent body fat. Longtime Georgia head coach Wally Butts told Sanders that he would have played him more if he had known he was going to be the governor one day.

Since that game between Northside and Warner Robins involving Perdue, the arch rivals have not played each other in the first game of the year. That changes Friday night when they clash at McConnell-Talbert Stadium to open this season.

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