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Greene Talks ‘Hobnail Boot’, 20 Years Later

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Through all of the energy and emotion, David Greene, one of the least experienced players on the entire roster, never lost his focus.

Coach Richt really dialed up about as easy of a touchdown as you possibly can for a redshirt freshman.
~David Greene

How long do good work boots last? In the case of David Greene's legendary game-winning touchdown throw to Verron Haynes, prompting Larry Munson's famed "hobnail boot" radio call, the tracks are timeless. Though greatness goes for generations, history immediately became that play's home. For Greene, Haynes and the "hobnail boot", the anniversary is now at 20 years. One of Georgia's most memorable plays ever, those steps have stood the test of time.

The mere talk of it, the play and the call, still makes people smile. 

"It's hard to believe, makes me feel old now, 20 years ago," Greene nodded.

This, in 2001, was vintage Tennessee. The Volunteers had won the national championship in 1998 and were fixtures in the top ten of every poll. Tennessee entered the Georgia game ranked in the top five and, fast forward to the final minutes of the contest, had seemingly won another big game with a late conversion from Casey Clausen to Travis Stephens. Then down 20-17, the Volunteers took the lead when Stephens took a screen pass 62 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with less than one minute remaining.

In a game where Georgia had played well and had not trailed since early in the second quarter, Tennessee, with Clausen-to-Stephens, had seemingly made the play of the game. The celebration, in Knoxville, was officially on.

"I'll tell you, it's the only time in my career that I actually felt the ground shake because the stadium was so loud," Greene acknowledged.

The Volunteers had the national name, homefield advantage and all of the momentum. Georgia had a freshman quarterback making his first-ever road start.

Through all of the energy and emotion, Greene, one of the least experienced players on the entire roster, never lost his focus. When the Bulldogs got the ball back, they did so with an unrelenting purpose. Despite having never been in a situation like the one he was in before, Greene was confident and ready. He and Georgia had an unrelenting focus.  

"I kind of had a feeling that I was going to have to go back in and make a play. Mentally I didn't allow myself to check out," Greene detailed. "When they hit the squib kick to us, we were ready to rock and roll."

From there, amongst all of the commotion and noise, Greene and company went right to work. Prior to the "hobnail boot", there had to be steps forward first.

After the short kick, Georgia got the ball at its own 41-yard line with 38 seconds to play. The scene was a wild one. The young team of first-year head coach Mark Richt needed a touchdown to win. Greene promptly opened the drive with a 12-yard pass to Damien Gary, who had a 72-yard punt return for a score earlier. After Greene quickly found tight end Randy McMichael for gains of 27 and 14 yards, the Bulldogs suddenly found themselves at the Tennessee 10-yard line.

If the "hobnail boot" came next, those plays were the final fitting.

Greene-to-Haynes actually took shape before anybody ever took the field. It's a play, like so many, that started with preparation. Georgia had recognized some of Tennessee's defensive tendencies near the goaline and went with a play that would counter that scheme. It proved to be the perfect call, one that helped write the legacies of multiple star players, one of the best head coaches of an era and, with an SEC Championship coming for the first time in a generation the very next season, a program ready for the national stage.

Before breaking Tennessee's nose, Georgia, with a freshman quarterback, knew how to before breaking the huddle.

"We knew they liked to play quarters coverage when it got down in the redzone. The play that we called, Pass-44 Haynes, the 'hobnail boot' play that all the Georgia fans know it by, this play, it's a quarters-killer. It's pretty much impossible to defend if you are going to line up in quarters," Greene recalled. "Sure enough, Coach told me, he said, 'look Greene,' he said, 'if they get quarters coverage it will be wide open, if you get a one safety look, just throw it out of the endzone and we got another play'."

Georgia didn't need another play. Greene-to-Haynes and Munson-to-mic, the Bulldogs had immediately turned a moment into a memory.

There was a beautiful simplicity to all that transpired, one tailored to a young quarterback and the spotlight he was in. Richt gave Greene an either-or set of instructions; throw to the open receiver or throw the ball away. The environment was overwhelming. The pressure was, too. Then there was the opposing defense of one of the best teams in the country. Richt was able to help Greene compartmentalize it all. Easier said that done, of course, he, Haynes and the Georgia offense ran the play exactly as designed.

The end result was the perfect play and, for the Bulldogs, the perfect finish. Richt-to-Munson, one remarkable call led to another.   
 
"Good coaching comes into play there. Here I was a redshirt freshman, it was my first away start ever. It was the easiest play-call if you're going to have like a first year player, because, really, it was either throw it to the fullback, who is going to be wide open down the middle of the field, or just throw it out of the endzone and we'll figure out another play," Greene explained. "Coach Richt really dialed up about as easy of a touchdown as you possibly can for a redshirt freshman."

In front of more than 107,000 screaming fans, Greene, knowing what he needed to do, calmly found Haynes for one of the most iconic conversions in program history.  

"Like anybody that plays golf that is lining up over a two-foot putt that you know you better not miss, that is kind of that feeling that I had in that moment," Greene stated. "Sure enough, we hit it and it was a huge play for the program."

For a play that is now such a leading part of Georgia lore, it took some time for Greene to process it all. Yes, the Bulldogs had won, but how, exactly, was not yet part of the picture for a freshman quarterback still taking so much of it all in. A week's worth of big plays had come in the game's final few minutes. Greene had done his job, leaving it all on the field; his feel for the final minute, included. 

A touchdown scored with just ten seconds left needed a little more time to settle.

"After the game, man, on the way home, we were exhausted because it was obviously an emotional roller-coaster throughout that game," Greene concluded. "It's one of those times where you don't really realize what happened until it's all said and done and you're in the locker room going, 'holy crap, what just took place there?'"

History, scouted and stated, Greene-to-Haynes became part of college football tradition.

Countless Georgia fans still reflect on that finish and will for many years to come. Each time they go back, tracks of red clay, these with a slightly different design, lead the way.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports