A One-Man Wrecking Crew
Georgia Brodnax made his mark as a receiver and a defensive end
The first time I saw George Hamilton Brodnax III play a football game, he was a 175-pound end for the old Atlanta Boys’ High School. He was running across the pitcher’s mound at Atlanta’s Ponce de Leon Park, site of all the Tech High and Boys’ High home games. With outstretched hands, his body leaning forward at a 45-degree angle, he raced over the mound, pulled in the ball with his fingertips and carried it across the goal line to bring his team back from almost certain defeat to a 13-13-tie with arch-rival Tech High.
The 20,000 fans who saw that catch never will forget it. Brodnax should have stumbled over the pitcher’s mound and landed on his face but he maintained his balance and composure, to the disbelief of 11 Tech High Smithies and an overflow crowd perched everywhere from the grandstands to the outfield signboards to the top of the freight train cars parked on the track behind the right-field fence.
The catch was a harbinger of things to come. At Georgia Tech Brodnax was lauded not only for his pass receiving but his defensive end play as well. In the 1947 Tech-Duke game, Brodnax dove into midair and, with his body parallel to the ground, snagged a mud-covered ball over the goal line. It was the only touchdown of the game. Four weeks later, at Grant Field, Brodnax caught a 17-yard touchdown pass to give legendary coach Bobby Dodd his first victory over Georgia.
In 1948 Brodnax’s defensive play against Duke eliminated the Blue Devils from the nationally ranked unbeaten list. Furman Bisher, who covered the game for The Atlanta Constitution, says, “Brodnax was a one-man wrecking crew. He made tackles all over the field, completely dissolving Duke’s running game.”
Another coaching legend, Wallace Butts of the University of Georgia, who was a member of the old Collier’s All-America team selection committee and had looked at films of the great college ends in the country, was quoted in Collier’s as saying, “Everything an end has to do, offensively and defensively, Brodnax can do better than any other end I saw. He is a great blocker and maybe the finest pass receiver I have ever seen.”
In his three years (1946-1948) as a starter for Tech, the Jackets posted a 26-6 won-lost record and went to two Bowl games.
Brodnax was president of his freshman, sophomore and junior classes, a four-year member of Student Council, president of the ANAK Honor Society, colonel in the Army ROTC, co-captain of the varsity football team and a member of Grantland Rice’s 1948 All-American team.
He served on the board of trustees of the Tech Alumni Associ-ation. He is a life member of the Tech Athletic Association board of trustees and a member of the Tech Athletic Hall of Fame and Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
When the Atlanta Athletic Club was preparing to host the 1976 U.S. Open and the 1981 PGA Champ-ionship, the man it placed in the top leadership job was George Brodnax. All this, while he was serving on the Emory University Board of Visitors and on the boards of directors of the old First Federal Savings & Loan Association, Georgia Freight Bureau, Community Chest, Travelers Aid Association and Boy Scouts of America, and operating a million-dollar business.
Today, Brodnax is 76 years old and doing well, thank you. He is retired from the company he founded 29 years ago, Tech Steel, a steel fabricating company. He lives with his wife of 54 years, Jo Dale Dewees, in north DeKalb County. The Brodnaxes have five children and 10 grandchildren.
He grew up in Atlanta’s West End, the son of Virginia and George H. Brodnax Jr., a senior vice-president of the Georgia Power Co. He played football, basketball and baseball at old Atlanta Boys’ High School. In football he was All-City, All-State, All-Southern and one of the most sought-after athletes in the South.
Brodnax not only had brain and brawn, he also had glamour. In 1948, he was picked on the third annual All-American “Glamour team.” And he still wears the smile that helped put him there.