Charles “Charley” Trippi, a University of Georgia (UGA) halfback from 1941 to 1943 and 1945 to 1946, is widely considered the finest athlete in Bulldog football history. Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant said Trippi was the greatest college football player ever, but Trippi was also a star in professional football and college baseball.
Trippi was born on December 14, 1920, in Pittston, Pennsylvania. His athletic abilities as a teenager attracted the attention of a former University of Georgia Bulldog, Harold “War Eagle” Ketron, who operated Coca-Cola bottling plants in the area. Ketron offered Trippi a scholarship to Georgia, which the nineteen-year-old accepted.
Trippi enrolled at UGA in 1941 and immediately had an impact on Georgia football, playing halfback on the undefeated freshman team. Midway through his sophomore season (1942-43) with the varsity Bulldogs, coach Wally Butts switched All-American halfback Frank Sinkwich to fullback and inserted Trippi at the halfback position. Trippi finished the season with 1,239 total yards; the Bulldogs won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship and earned a bid to the Rose Bowl, where Trippi rushed for 130 yards en route to a 9-0 victory over the University of California at Los Angeles and Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player honors.
Trippi missed the next two and a half seasons serving in the Air Force in World War II (1941-45). He returned for the last six games of 1945 and, in the season finale against Georgia Tech, set the SEC records for passing yards and total yards in a single game. Trippi captained the Bulldogs in his senior year, leading the 1946 team to an undefeated SEC championship season and a Sugar Bowl victory and winning the Maxwell Award as college player of the year.
After graduation Trippi played professionally as a running back with the Chicago Cardinals for nine seasons, winning a world championship his rookie year (1947). After retirement he joined the Cardinals’ coaching staff, and in 1958 he returned to his alma mater as an assistant baseball coach. (Trippi would later serve as Georgia’s head baseball coach—he was an All-American in 1946 and briefly played with the AA Atlanta Crackers in 1947.) He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1965, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.
Trippi lives in Athens with his second wife, Margaret. He had three children, Charles Jr., Brenda, and Jo Ann with his first wife, Virginia, who died in 1971.