Ken Cooper’s incredible play; Irma’s effect on high school sports teams
Ken Cooper’s Drop Kick
In recent columns I have mentioned Sonoraville’s own Kenny Cooper and Tifton’s Ken Cooper (no relation – I think). Ken Cooper died earlier this year at the age of 80. Kenny Cooper is busy writing his outstanding athletic history as the starting center for Georgia Tech. His jersey number 55 was prominent in Tech’s televised game with Tennessee. I never got the opportunity to interact with Kenny when he was at Sonoraville. When I saw him at a restaurant in Calhoun one night the impression made was he was one of the most outstanding physical young men imaginable. Here is wishing him the best at Tech to go along with the outstanding career at Sonoraville.
Ken Cooper’s name might not be familiar to many readers. His story is an outstanding one as a player, as a coach and a successful business man. I feature a most unusual play in Cooper’s career at Georgia. In fact, the play is so unusual that most have never seen it, moreover, most have never heard of it. It was a play demanding perfect timing and execution. The play or technique is called “Drop Kick.” Read on as I tell you about it.
The drop kick was the forerunner of the place kick that we see now as teams kick the try for the point-after a touchdown or an attempted field goal. We are familiar with the ball being snapped to the holder with a kicker nearby stepping to the ball placed by the holder in an upright position.
Now picture the ball being snapped to the kicker with no holder around. The kicker drops the ball point down to the ground and his foot kicks the ball at the precise moment the ball arrives to the ground. It was indeed an action of skill.
In the Georgia Bulldogs’ opening game against Texas in the middle 1950s Ken Cooper lined up to place kick an extra point or field goal (I can’t find which). The ball was bobbled by the holder. Cooper picked it up and ran a few steps to his left, stopped abruptly and successfully drop kicked the ball through the uprights for the points.
I did not see that incident, but a comment written by an Atlanta sports writer has stayed with me for over 60 years. The writer’s comment was Cooper’s reaction and kick was the most alert play he had ever seen by a college football player. I have never forgotten Ken Cooper.
There is more to the Ken Cooper story as a player and coach. He served as head coach of Ole Miss for four years and defeated his alma mater in back to back seasons. His Rebels handed Notre Dame their lone defeat in the Irish’s journey to their 11-1 season and the National Championship in 1977.
Irma hit players and teams hard
The past week or so has exposed various parts of our country to situations far beyond what has been normal. The Southwest and Southeast have each been afflicted by hurricanes of magnitudes with destructive force causing a dim hope of a return to what once was.
These words are directed to our concerns about athletics. This is not to say athletics are the most important aspect of life. It does say attention, interest, time and finances are constantly directed to athletic competition from tots through grade schools, colleges and professional leagues. One newspaper in our area’s headline indicated teams and players [were] tossed in state of flux (disarray) by Irma.
We will concern ourselves with the local scene at this time. My observation of the time and efforts of softball coaches in our area trying to reschedule games was enough to make me glad I did not have to concern myself with such. With the GHSA informing teams that region tournaments would start as scheduled put a strain on schools, coaches and players.
What was true of softball was true of all other activities. School closings, damaged playing surfaces and other factors left much to be done to return to normal. Athletic facilities are not at the top of our concerns. Don’t our hearts reach out to all those whose comforts of home and normal working facilities have been damaged to a degree demanding long and difficult efforts to repair.
Weather conditions have always been a factor in athletic competition (remember the ice storm several years ago when Atlanta was hosting the Super Bowl). Normal adverse weather (if there be such) is tolerated and life goes on as a rule. What we have seen lately is far beyond normal.
I do go back to 1948 to the Friday before Thanksgiving. Calhoun was scheduled to play Model in Calhoun on that day. On Thursday night a deluge hit North Georgia.
The Calhoun High athletic fields in Calhoun are the lowest in nearly all North Georgia. Consequently, on Friday morning the sight greeting administrators and officials was water reaching from the baseball field to nearly the 50 yard line on the football field.
The game was postponed. That was the year Calhoun’s Kenneth Moore was chasing the state-scoring record. I think he needed eight points to break the record. The game was rescheduled for Thanksgiving afternoon. In addition to Moore, on that outstanding 1948 Jacket team were Pete Lewis, Ed Lewis, Rex Meadows and others who have passed on or some living I can’t remember.
Items for another time
1) Comments by Georgia’s Coach Kirby Smart’s dad, Sonny Smart, on the changing game of football. Many of these items were found in a Loran Smith article given me by Buzzy McMillan. The game has changed.
2) The cry from out Sonoraville way of “Bring on those Jackets.” The Phoenix are off to a great start and the Sonoraville- Calhoun game looms greatly on the horizon. I think Michael “Smiley” Haney is the originator of the cry.
3) A look at my article of some eight years ago, “Teammates Matter.” That thought will be modified and amplified by the principle that players don’t run the team. I will say that they can often ruin the team.