One day about a year ago, I engaged my laptop and there was an early morning message from Steve Greer, Georgia’s All-America guard who could encroach on an opponent’s backfield with remarkable alacrity and deftness that was akin to his marksmanship with a shotgun.
I had written about killing a prized Osceola turkey in Florida, and he had gotten an emotional lift from the details of the experience. I immediately knew that he had vicariously connected with the hunt.
His hallmark in all that he did was driven by a rare quickness that set him apart. When an opposing quarterback was sounding forth with signals at the line of scrimmage, somehow or other Greer could uncannily spring on the right “hut” as if he knew the snap count. He was often accused of lining up offsides.
It was the same with a shotgun. We pause here to insert a piece of a recent conversation in which he was asked that if he had a choice, which would he prefer — to catch a cooler of fish or bag his limit of dove or quail. After a long pause, he allowed, “That would be tough to say.” Then another pause — after which he admitted that, perhaps, the outdoor experience he enjoyed the most was shooting a shotgun. Those who have hunted with him, will tell you that he seldom missed. Knocking down a pair of quail on a covey rise was as easy as Tiger Woods making a 20-foot putt in his prime.
We reminisced recently about Steve’s growing up years on a farm near Greer, S.C., which was named for an ancestor. He recalled that his grandfather fought in the Civil War and was wounded at Chickamauga. Subsequently, he was taken to a Prisoner of War installation at Camp Chase, near Columbus, Ohio. Grandpa Greer’s third wife was the mother of Steve’s dad who was born when the old soldier was 60 years old.
Steve still has his grandfather’s desk which he used when the senior Greer was a member of the South Carolina legislature in which he served for several years.
“As soon as I was old enough to walk, I started rabbit hunting,” Steve said with a patented grin, getting an emotional lift from reminiscing about those times. “My father gave me a sawed off .410 bore shotgun, which is perfect for small game. My son, Michael still has that gun.
“My father shot it, my brother shot it, I shot it, my boys all shot it, my older grandsons shot it and now my younger grandsons will shoot it. It is a family tradition.”
Recently, we reminisced on a couple of occasions, recalling his days as a player and coach for the Bulldogs. Hunting and fishing recall were dominant subjects, but football, naturally, got equal time.
As we flashed back, I maintained in my mind’s eye images of him at Sanford Stadium, making tackle after tackle. His TFL stats — tackle for loss — were always off the charts. My guess, he is the last 200-pound defensive lineman to make All-America.
As a freshman he played for Doc Ayers who was an absentee much of the week, owing to recruiting responsibilities, but Steve recalls Doc’s fiery pre-game, win-one-for-the-Gipper, speeches on game day. Ayers could summon tears with his emotional exhortations, somewhat like a seasoned actor on cue. “I think Doc’s grandmother died three times during my freshman year,” Steve chuckled.
Greer had a contributing hand in helping recruit two of Georgia’s greatest players — Herschel Walker and Terry Hoage. Mike Cavan was on the point in recruiting Herschel, but Greer, his closest friend, kept him company in Wrightsville where they hung out enough weeks and months that they could have been required to pay taxes.
With Hoage, Greer and Cavan, got a tout from a faculty colleague of Terry’s father at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas. A native Georgian, Dick Payne, was a distinguished faculty member at the Texas based school and kept sending word to Athens that none of the Texas schools had shown an interest in Hoage.
“Terry’s high school coach told us that Terry likely would enroll at an Ivy League school,” Greer recalled. After a brief film session, Greer and Cavan were quickly moved to eagerly recommend Hoage to Vince Dooley, the head coach.
In the space of two months in the spring of 1980, the Cavan-Greer team had helped Georgia land the most recruited player in the country and the least recruited. Both would be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
At the dedication of the field to Dooley in the fall of 2019, Hoage, not a sentimentalist by nature, warmly embraced Greer and thanked him for changing his life.
Earlier this week, I stopped by Steve and Susan’s house and left them a bottle of Terry’s best wine, “The Hedge.” Hoage gets the same emotional kick from making good wine that Greer has always gotten from shooting a shotgun.
Steve Greer and Terry Hoage. Two All-American boys who made All-America teams in college and passionately followed extra-curricular pursuits for ultimate fulfillment in life. Hear! Hear! Damn Good Dawgs.