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BISHER: Tale of Tech's south-footed punter

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

That’s “south” as in southpaw, referring to “the left,” having nothing to do with politics. Now, having dragged you that far, I’m compelled to complete this wanderlust.

The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inducts another class later this month, at the facility in Macon, and I’m sure you’ll read of it elsewhere.

This is about one of the inductees, and a most unusual one.

Joe DeLany was a man of many splendors, many of them having nothing to do with athleticism. For instance, he once ran a golf tournament in Japan, and he not only didn’t speak Japanese, he didn’t understand a word they were saying. He had served as chairman of the old Atlanta Classic Tournament, so he did understand golf. And he played a rather acceptable game. He was driving the ball over 300 yards before Tiger Woods drew his first breath.

He was a football official, an umpire in the Southeastern Conference, and in a bunch of bowl games, from Orange to Rose. He worked games in the SEC for 30 years, and Jimmy Harper, as celebrated a referee as there ever was, said there was no doubt that Joe knew the rules. He wrote the SEC officials manual.

“He should have, he’d played the game, he knew the game and he had great anticipation,” Jimmy said. “We had a game in which I was refereeing and mistakenly allowed Miami to have six downs, and I always said he was responsible, but it was a crew effort.”

DeLany moved from high school to Georgia Tech, and there became a backfield star. That’s where the “southfoot” kicker came into headline attention. Bobby Dodd said that Joe was “the best left-footed quick-kicker in Tech history.” The “quick-kick” was one of Dodd’s strategic weapons, and to have a left-footer executing it added to its value.

After his playing career was over, DeLany became a building contractor and investor, but never got far away from the game. He worked the first “instant replay” game in the SEC, and later became one of those infernal “observers,” those who questioned what the officials down on the field had called. With his left hand, of course, not his foot.

So, that’s Joe DeLany, Hall of Famer, only left-footed quick-kicker I ever saw. And I did see him do his thing.

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.