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Nov. 15, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Greatness is timeless and transcends eras.

The same is true with class.

Maxie Baughan personifies both.

A two-way star for Georgia Tech from 1957 through 1959 (he was captain of the ’59 team), and a star linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles for six of his 12 NFL seasons, Baughan was recognized by the city of Philadelphia, earning induction into the city’s Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 8th.

“It was a wonderful evening,” said Baughan of the event, which took place at the Sheraton Society Hill in Philadelphia. “When you are honored like that you feel humbled because you know you’re not worth it. But it was a wonderful evening and meeting the other people that were inducted was also very, very rewarding.

“It is [special] because it’s something you participated in a long time ago and it’s not lost.”

Baughan’s impact on Georgia Tech football is certainly not lost. The Forkland, Ala., native, came to Atlanta in the hopes of getting an education and simply improving his future prospects. He got a lot more.

“I think the memories are the friendships that we made and being able to get an education,” he said. “Georgia Tech is a good school. I was going back home to work in the steel mills. I had no idea I was going to be a professional football player. I felt if I got a good education I could go to work and maybe wear a tie to work instead of climbing telephone poles like my dad did.”

Baughan made the most of his days on the Flats, playing on both sides of the ball — at center on offense and linebacker on defense — for Head Coach Bobby Dodd. Being a two-way player wasn’t the big deal then that it is now.

“Back then, you had to play both ways in college. You could only substitute so many times a quarter,” he recalled. “When you had the All-American Team, there was only 11 players on it. Today, there are 20-something guys on it, offense, defense, special teams, and all that other stuff. It was wonderful for ME to be able to play both ways.”

Regardless of which unit was on the field, Baughan was a monster. He earned All-SEC honors in 1958 (third team) and ’59 (first), when he was voted SEC Player of the Year. He also was named a First-Team All-American, Georgia Tech’s first.

Much of the focus was on Baughan’s play at center, he also was magnificent at linebacker. That senior season, he made 124 tackles, still the school record.

Playing for Dodd was an unforgettable experience for Baughan, who was inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1965.

“Playing for Coach Dodd was an honor,” he said. “I felt honored every time I went out on the field. He was a legend in his own time.”

That time was much different than today and it extended beyond just playing on both sides of the ball.

Baughan recalled the 1959 match-up against #6 SMU, led by All-America quarterback Don Meredith.

He didn’t recall much about the game, other than, “tackling Don a few times” — the two would become good friends, albeit adversaries in the NFL, Meredith with the Dallas Cowboys, Baughan with Philadelphia — and that Tech won the game (16-12). What stood out more was just how his getting to the field was that day.

“I went to class and got out at 11:00 and we had a 1:00 kickoff,” he said. “We had to go to class six days a week. They kind of made it known that you were there to get an education, not just to play football. So that was a big thing.”

Baughan’s playing days were just getting started after leaving Tech. He was selected in both the NFL and AFL Drafts, choosing to go to Philadelphia, which selected him on the second round (No. 20 overall). He’d stick to linebacker in Philly, playing next to the great Chuck Bednarik, he of the Bednarik Award given to the nation’s top defensive player. He’d help the Eagles win a World Championship that first season, the last for the city.

Typical of the times, Baughan joked that even the rings accompanying a title were different from today.

“Now the rings are so big and gaudy you can’t wear them,” he said. “But the ring that we got was very nice and you can wear it and not feel like a fool walking around with it.”

Baughan would play 12 years over all, also playing with the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins after leaving Philadelphia, earning nine Pro Bowl berths. After retiring as a player he stayed in the game as a coach.

He’d start coaching where he began playing, coming back to Georgia Tech in 1972 and ’73, serving as Head Coach Bill Fulcher’s Defensive Coordinator then as Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers coach. He’d go on to the NFL, serving as defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions, then take the reins at Cornell University, leading the school to its first Ivy League title in 12 years. He’d finish his career as an assistant with the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens before finally retiring in 1998.

Baughan’s greatness wasn’t just recognized by the teams seeking his services but by various halls of fame.

In 1980, he was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, he was enshrined by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame in 1992 (he was MVP of the 1960 game, a 14-7 Tech loss to Arkansas). 

Even with all of the past inductions, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction, which kind of came out of nowhere, was special.

Today, at 74, Baughan lives just outside of Baltimore with Dianne, his wife of 51 years. They have three children and eight grandchildren.

He would welcome deserving calls coming from the National Football League, for its Hall of Fame, and the Eagles, for their Ring of Honor, but even if those calls don’t come, he’s content with the honors he has received, especially the Hall of Fame induction from Georgia Tech.

“Any time you’re honored like that you’re humbled and you feel great,” said Baughan, who still watches every televised Georgia Tech football game. “The Georgia Tech Hall of Fame was something that I knew most of those guys. It was an honor to be inducted. There were some guys there that you put your name up next to theirs it makes you feel good.”


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