Wednesday, April 16, 2014

GATArchives - Tony Milton

While recording episode 7 I casually mentioned something that got stuck in a frontal lobe's craw somewhere. Somehow, and in some kind of way, the name Tony Milton just jumped out of my mouth. Hopefully most of y'all remember him. Not exactly sure what made this player and this play specifically come to mind so quickly, but I decided last night that I would do some research on the former UGA running back.
Milton was a tough carrier of the football. (via Legge)

What I remember
The most vivid memory I have of Tony Milton was in the game against Tennessee in Athens 2002. The year after the Hobnail Boot, sporting a rare two year winning streak, and things still weren't very easy against Fulmer's Vols. But we had a lead very late in the game and came up square against a fourth down decision: punt the ball and gain maybe 20 yards of field position yet still be forced to fight to win the game, or go for it and earn the win in one more play.

Coach Richt chose the latter. And he also relied upon the fresh legs of Musa Smith's backup - Tony Milton. Student Body right and 26 yards later the Dawgs had sealed a third consecutive win over Tennessee for the first time since the late 1980s.

What I reminded myself of
Using google I entered his name and found a lot of his recruiting information. Tony Milton didn't earn a qualifying test score while in high school and eventually settled into a decision to play for Syracuse, who wanted him to enroll as a partial qualifier. But he never played for the Orangemen. Meanwhile Mark Richt had moved from Tallahassee as FSU's offensive coordinator where he had recruited Milton some, to Athens as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. And that's when he found Milton working hard to stay in shape until another football related opportunity presented itself. There were times Milton even slept and lived out of his car after high school, mostly due to a strained and difficult home life.

In many ways it was a match made in Heaven, Coach Richt and Tony Milton. For all intents and purposes, he loved the young man. Years before Greene/Pollack and Tebow ad nauseum, Uncle Verne enjoyed relating the tale of Milton's struggle to earn his way into Richt's backfield. Glory, Glory.

Milton served himself well as Musa's backup in 2002 and was considered the experienced option to replace all those carries once Smith left for the NFL. Still it was a crowded group behind David Greene and JT Wall, one that included Kregg Lumpkin, highly touted freshman Michael Cooper and the 2003 GDay hero Ronnie Powell. Still, injuries eventually took their toll and Milton finished out his career at Georgia mostly recognized for his play as a redshirt freshman behind Musa.

What I found out
Milton pursued a golf career a few years ago. Not sure how it turned out as those amatuer tours can be brutal, but I hope the guy is doing well today, wherever he is.

For a while he was the kid most had forgotten that turned into the man that Richt gave an opportunity. Nothing would really stand out today if you looked back at his statistics while in Athens. But by all accounts he made the most of the chance he was given, on the field and off. And if you fast forward to about the 2:07:00 mark of this video, you will see how Tony Milton was the number called in one of the greatest play calls of the early Richt era.

GATA Tony Milton! Damn Good Dawg!