ATHENS, Ga. — He's one of the most beloved and well-known people in our state. University of Georgia's legendary football coach Vince Dooley sat down with 11Alive's Cheryl Preheim for a rare one-on-one interview to talk about the past and present.
Just a year and half shy of his 90th birthday, Vince Dooley is still an energetic force. A quality that led him into football seven decades ago.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was still President when he started coaching the freshmen team at Auburn University.
He invited us into his Athens home where he's lived for 55 years. He will be celebrating his 61st wedding anniversary this month.
The home -- like a museum.
"Well, I was very fortunate to be a coach for a long time. I was head football coach for 25 years and then athletic director for 25 years," Dooley said. "I did both jobs for 10 years and I didn't know it until I gave up one."
He didn't do it for the money. The picture he likes to point out - proves it. His first contract with UGA in 1964.
Just one page - with three bullet points - the salary: $12,000. Chump change compared to the million dollar deals these days.
"I mean some of the contracts these guys are making. It doesn't bother me but it bothers my wife," he joked. "And I told Barbara I wouldn't get too comfortable. In fact, I wouldn't even un pack."
It's hard to imagine Coach Dooley didn’t think he’d last long in Athens. A humble start of what would be a legendary career.
Dooley won 6 conference championships as head coach -- and a victory at the 1981 Sugar Bowl earned the Bulldogs a 12-0 record and a national championship.
But that's not the title that means the most. That one: grand daddy.
"We have a football team with no subs. And now we have 11 of them. When you have children they grow up to be people and some of the boys aren't as cute anymore. But the great news is that if you hang in there, you have another generation. And we now have two twin great grand-daughters. And they're just the cutest thing."
His children, grandchildren and wife have filled his home with warmth and love, and, bulldogs -- 300 bulldogs.
"I just got infatuated with bulldogs, so the kids got to the point that if they could give me a bulldog I didn't have that that would just make my Christmas."
All unique – especially one his wife, Barbara picked out… Carmen Moran Dog.
"Now that is one ugly dog, look at that thing."
Coach Dooley’s favorite….
"A little boy hugging on his bulldog."
Throughout the Dooley home you’ll see Steve Penley's distinctive paintings – one, a birthday surprise he commissioned for Barbara with a memorable back story.
"He called and said I'm coming to a basketball game. Can I come by your house. So he came by at midnight and grabbed a glass of wine and a magazine. He started squirting paint on the magazine and started painting. I had know idea and couldn't tell that he hadn't finished it!"
It is a home filled with love and memories. Medals from his time in the Marines, photo's with Bob Hope, Hank Aaron, Hercshel Walker and several Presidents. But his best memories are up the road on UGA's campus.
While his home documents the past, he closely follows the program now -- like the impact the coronavirus had on all sports. He says the past year has taught us how much we need sports.
“Sports is very important to people, particularly in the southeast,” Dooley said.
When asked what his hope is for the University 50 years from now, he simply wants to continue to see it thrive.
"Well, what has been great is to see the growth of it. We've been in this house for 55 years and in 55 years I've seen it go from a pretty good school to a world class institution."
Coach Dooley said one of the proudest things he's ever been a part of is working to expand women's sports and to see UGA grow into an Olympic powerhouse.
Cheryl Preheim will be sharing more from their interview in the weeks to come ahead of the Summer Games in Tokyo.