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Charley Trippi Served in WWII, Then Became Georgia’s All-American
AP Photo (left), AP Photo/John Bazemore (right)

When talking about the greatest Georgia Bulldogs ever, halfback Charley Trippi is a name nobody should ever forget. Not only was he a complete badass on the gridiron, he’s also a hero for what he did in the middle of his college football career. His legacy is unmatched.

Coming out of high school in Pittston, Pennsylvania, Trippi wasn’t the biggest guy in the world, but, man, he was such a great athlete. The University of Georgia and head coach Harold Ketron saw that potential, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Trippi’s career was far from conventional. He was successful in everything he did in Athens, of course, breaking SEC records left and right, but it was his service during World War II that makes his story so unique.

Charley Trippi’s Georgia Career and WWII Service

Charles Louis Trippi first became a star for the Dawgs during the 1942 season. Paired up with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich, Trippi played halfback and quarterback. He compiled 1,239 yards — 627 rushing yards and 567 passing yards — while helping Georgia go 11-1.

The Bulldogs won the SEC Championship that season and were the consensus national champions after taking down UCLA in the 1943 Rose Bowl, a game Trippi picked up 115 yards on the ground, played quarterback, and was the team’s punter.

Trippi was eventually named the game’s Most Valuable Player when the award was created.

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Life changed when World War II began. Trippi missed the entire 1944 season to serve in the Air Force. He even missed six games of the 1945 season before his discharge and resuming his playing career.

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However, Trippi didn’t skip a beat.

That season, Trippi set the then-SEC record for passing yards and total offense in a game against Georgia Tech (323 and 384, respectively) and the then-SEC record for rushing yards in a game against Florida (239). The season eventually ended with a Georgia victory over Tulsa in the Oil Bowl, and Trippi earned All-SEC honors.

Just when everyone thought he couldn’t be a better college football player, Trippi took it to a completely different level for his senior season.

In 1946, Trippi racked up 744 rushing yards and another 622 passing yards with 19 total touchdowns. He was an Unanimous All-American, the SEC Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award (given to college football’s MVP), Heisman Trophy runner-up, and helped Georgia go undefeated with a Sugar Bowl win over North Carolina.

Trippi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959.

Charley Trippi Baseball

Want more proof Charley Trippi was a great athlete? After his legendary senior season in football, Trippi hit .475 with 11 home runs at Georgia.

Trippi played one year of minor league baseball with the Atlanta Crackers, but he eventually chose to play football instead.

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Charley Trippi NFL Career

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After his bowl games and short baseball run, Trippi certainly had his pick for what to do. He had NFL offers and even one from the AAFC’s New York Yankees to play football and baseball. He eventually signed with the Chicago Cardinals in a four-year contract worth a whopping $100,000.

As a rookie, Trippi helped the Cardinals — now the Arizona Cardinals — win the NFL Championship game over the Philadelphia Eagles. The tailback was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, First-Team All-Pro in 1948, and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

Today, the 98-year-old is the oldest living Hall of Famer, oldest living first draft pick, one of the best players in Georgia history, a running back with a NFL title and college national championship, and a true American hero for giving up football to serve during World War II.

MORE: Ranking Georgia’s Greatest Running Backs Since 1941

With over 10 years of sports writing experience, Brett has covered some of the top local, regional, and national sporting events in the Heartland for both print and digital platforms. He is a graduate of Kansas State University and resides in Austin, Texas.
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