Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Super Memories

Published 3:14 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



This was the 23 rd 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


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

Walsh was the backfield coach.

I was fortunate to interview both of these great NFL personalities, on

two different occasions. Madden said that John Rauch was the only coach

he ever knew who could actually coach every position on the team.

Walsh said the “genesis” of the West Coast offense began with

Rauch and that Raiders team. It is easy to conclude if that was the case,

then the roots of the West Coach offense really had its beginning on the

practice fields at Georgia where Rauch learned the basics of offensive football from Coach Wallace