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The Transfer of John Dewberry

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John Dewberry and Head Coach Bill Curry after defeating UGA between the hedges.
John Dewberry and Head Coach Bill Curry after defeating UGA between the hedges.
In 1981, Milton High School's senior quarterback John Dewberry signed up to play for Vince Dooley's Georgia Bulldogs. Dewberry had enjoyed a fairly competitive recruitment between Dooley and Bill Curry but decided to go the Dog route "handing the ball off to Herschel". Dewberry's first season in Athens was anything but spectacular on and off the field. Dewberry never threw a pass for the Bulldogs in 1981 and transferred to Tech amidst the uproar of angry fans on both ends of Highway 78.

Dewberry never really explained why he transferred to Tech but another UGA to Tech transfer, tight end Tyrone Sorrells, cited the following reasons for his own transfer to Tech in a 1984 AP article:
...[Sorrells] later complained Georgia overlooked players' academic progress for the sake of football and said he disliked living with the football team apart from the rest of the university...
The gritty details came out when a NCAA probe hit Georgia's basketball program in 1984. Sorrells was questioned by the NCAA about recruiting, improper benefits, and academics. His main shot across Georgia's stern related to the less-than-stringent academics bestowed upon Georgia athletes.
Sorrells said the academic program which Georgia officials placed him was an "insult to my intelligence."..."I feel like I was very honest with the guy from the NCAA," he said. "I told him my bad points. I told him I wasn't a super student but I was willing to do the work...but I wasn't given the chance to do anything at Georgia. I was put at a level below my intelligence. My grades weren't bad at Georgia, but my classes were."
Sorrells worked out at Tech academically but never really became a major pass catching target during Dewberry's career. Dewberry, on the other hand, cited his transfer to Tech as the primary catalyst sparking greatness on and off the field during his collegiate tenure. In Dewberry's first full season at Tech (1983), he beat veterans Stu Rogers and Darrell Gast for the starting quarter position and led Tech to a 3-8 record. Dewberry completed 55% of his passes including a 6:8 TD:INT ratio. The peak of Dewberry's freshman season came against the #7 rated Georgia Bulldogs.

The Dogs were Cotton Bowl Bound, 8-1-1, and steamrolling through their 1983 schedule. Tech only had 3 wins, was unranked, and had been outscored by about 17 points per game in their 7 losses on the season. Even then, Vince Dooley was concerned...
"They can knock off a bowl bound team," Dooley said. "We will catch Tech when they are on a roll. A year ago Tech had one of the best schemes for attacking our defense that we had seen in four years. They knocked us from one end of the field to other and could have won the game."
Tech entered the game as 14 point underdogs and would fall 3 points short with a final tally of 27-24 in favor of the Athenians. Trailing by 3 with around two minutes left, Dewberry drove Tech to midfield before being intercepted. The Dogs ran out the clock and secured their 16th victory in 20 attempts under head coach Vince Dooley. Little did the Dogs know that Dewberry's reign of terror over the Red and Black had just begun.

In 1984, Tech was up and down. Robert Lavette was setting Tech rushing records and despite a hot start to the season winning 3 straight, Tech would finish out 2-4-1 before 1984's edition of Clean, Old-fashioned Hate. Dewberry improved statistically in 1984 completing 61.1% of his passes and throwing an 11:10 touchdown to interception ratio on the season. Georgia limped in to the game despite a #18 ranking and 7-3 season.

In short, Tech slammed the Dogs. John Dewberry had a 30 yard rushing TD and threw for two scores. Tech cruised past UGA 35-18. Robert Lavette finished his career against Georgia with three games over 100+ yards rushing (203, 158, and 109 yards). Lavette after gaining his first 43 yards of the game became the 20th player in NCAA history to reach 4,000 career rushing yards. Dewberry set the Tech single season offensive yardage record against the Dogs with 2,173 yards total offense in 1984. The Dogs' biggest issue of the 1984 game appeared to be quarterback play as they rotated three different QB's: David Dukes, James Jackson, and Todd Williams. After the game, Georgia went on to tie Florida State 17-17 in the Citrus Bowl while Tech had to miss out on a bowl berth for the 6th straight season.

Bill Curry's Georgia Tech team only lost two games in Dewberry's senior season of 1985. Tech had an early season letdown against Virginia and a three point squeaker against Auburn. Dewberry threw for 57% completions and a 10:8 TD:INT ratio in 1985. The ground game featured three talented backs in Cory Collier, Malcolm King, and Jerry Mays while the aerial game went through Gary Lee.

Georgia came in to the 1985 game in Atlanta with a not-so modest 7-2-1 record and a Sun Bowl berth already locked up. The game was nationally televised on TBS and almost every good Tech fan from this era remembers one play from that 1985 game... The Dogs had a 16-10 lead and all of the momentum. This would change drastically in the third quarter as Gary Lee broke off a 95 yard kickoff return for a touchdown putting Tech ahead for good. Tech won 20-16 and finished the season with a victory over Michigan State in the All-American Classic. Georgia played their second straight tie against a bowl opponent in Arizona to finish their season.

Dewberry graduated with a degree in management in 1986. He had accumulated 4,825 yards of total offense in three years, 37 touchdowns, and two wins over arch-rival UGA. He still ranks as the third most accurate passer in Yellow Jacket history with a career 58.2% completion percentage. Only Joe Hamilton ('98 and '99) and Shawn Jones ('89 and '90) have defeated UGA back to back as starting QB's since Dewberry left Tech.