Sept. 11, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Robert Cork, aka Bobby, never saw Bobby Dodd coach. In fact, he never saw his great-grandfather at all.
But in a way, he feels very familiar with him.
The 19-year-old Cork, who is currently enrolled as a sophomore at Georgia Tech — he’s majoring in biomedical engineering — has heard plenty of stories over the years about Dodd, however.
The multitude of stories has been enough to make him realize how special his great-grandfather was.
Many of the stories go beyond Dodd, the College Football Hall of Fame coach and player, who coached 22 years on the Flats (1945-66) and won more games (165) than any coach in Georgia Tech history, including 31 straight games wihtout a loss at one point, and all 12 in 1952 to win the National Championship.
“I guess some people would think it’s like living in a shadow or something, but because he’s a family member it always felt like a great honor to have somebody like that in my family,” he said. “I don’t know who all realizes how much people really loved him. His players loved him. So when I go those coaching award ceremonies, people come up to me and they tell me all these stories about him, they’re not telling it like a normal player would tell it about his coach. They’re telling it like a kid would tell about their dad. It’s so cool.
“It makes me want to be like him,” he added. “When I hear the stories about who he was and about what he did for these players and why he did it, I really strive to be like him. I love that he made such a difference in people’s lives. That was his goal above anything else.”
How big a difference Dodd made and how much his players loved him will be on display throughout the weekend, beginning on Friday afternoon.
That’s when a statue of Dodd will be unveiled in a corner of Callaway Plaza. The statue came about through the efforts of former Yellow Jackets player and current Tech mega-fundraiser Tazwell “Taz” Anderson. Anderson, a 1982 inductee into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame — he started for Dodd in 1959 and ’60, earning All-SEC honors, then played six years in the NFL — put together a grass-roots effort through a group of former players that’s come to be known as “Dodd’s Boys,” that raised more than $100,000 to commission the statue.
Standing approximately 54 inches high on a five-foot-tall pedestal, it was sculpted by the husband-and-wife team of Don Haugen and Teena Stern who worked with foundry artist Jack Ward.
“(Anderson) felt like [the statue] probably was a necessity here since the stadium is named for (Dodd) and the street is named for (Dodd), so he raised the money,” said Associate Director of Athletics – Public Relations, Wayne Hogan. “They did a great job and they raised more than enough money for what they needed and went about the business of having the mold cast and the statue created. We found an appropriate place for it here on Callaway Plaza. I got a sneak peek of it and it really is a fantastic piece of work. I think the people are going to love it when they see it.”
President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and Athletic Director Dan Radakovich are scheduled to speak at the dedication, preceding the removal of the statue cover by Dodd’s son and daughter.
The rest of the weekend will be a tribute to Dodd’s 1951 and ’52 teams, the latter celebrating the 60th anniversary of its 12-0 record — part of a 31-game unbeaten streak — and National Championship. Some 33 players and family are expected. They will be honored with a brunch on Saturday morning, then an on-field introduction at halftime of Saturday’s Georgia Tech-Virginia game.
The entire weekend will have a family feel to it. It’s bigger than just the Dodd family. It’s a weekend for the Georgia Tech family, of which Dodd and his family were — and still are — such a big part. Coach Dodd would have it no other way.
“It’s been very emotional for the family,” said Hogan. “They certainly didn’t ask for this, but when they saw the momentum that it gained, the outpouring of support, it has been really special for them. I think it’s going to be interesting to see the real emotional attachment that takes place out there on Friday.”
Cork agrees. He feels that the statue is certainly something that Dodd never would have sought. He is still especially moved by the stories about his dedication to his family.
“Bobby Dodd wasn’t ever NOT busy, but he still found time to be with his family constantly,” he said. “Just the impact he made on my mom’s life and my dad’s once he came into the family, he would take him on fishing trips all the time. They’re not good stories to anyone but me, I guess, but they’re what made him who he was. They were the little things and they were the things that changed people’s lives.”
Bobby doesn’t expect to participate in the activities on Saturday night but will be in the stadium, named for his great-grandfather, a place he remembers well from his days growing up in Marietta, memories which played a part in his choosing to attend Georgia Tech.
He currently plans on attending the game and sitting in the student section.
As far as the statue, he’s eager for it to be unveiled, but is no real hurry to have his picture taken with it.
“I already snagged one while they were covering it up,” he said, with a laugh. “I just happened to be walking by at the right time. I was already very excited to see a little bit of it.
“We’re so excited that they want to do that for him,” he added. “It’s so great that so many people think so much of him. We do, obviously. So we’re very excited to see it and that they’re doing it.”