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Darrell Huckaby - Three memories of Munson

I have three stories for you. It could just as easily be 3,000.

Story No. 1: It is the early 1970s and Georgia is playing Tennessee. I am a student at UGA but have elected to spend the weekend at home. OK. I had to come home and work in the mill. At any rate, my mama and I were sitting at the kitchen table and listening to the broadcast of the football game through the haze of cigarette smoke that settled over any room my mother occupied for more than 15 minutes.

Andy Johnson, a classmate of mine, was playing quarterback for the Dogs. Tennessee was leading but Georgia was driving in the closing seconds. Johnson, who played running back in the NFL, faked a handoff and kept the ball around end to score what would be the winning touchdown and as the closing seconds ticked off the clock, the man in Georgia's broadcasting booth - a relative newcomer after only five or six seasons - screamed "My God, we have beaten Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since ... ever!"

He may have used the term "we" before to describe the team who paid his check, but it was the first time I paid particular attention to it. It was the first time that I remember thinking of Larry Munson, who, at the time, was still commuting from Nashville every week, as one of our own.

Story No. 2: It was early December. 2006. I had been in Athens all day, signing copies of my new book, "What the Huck!" As I headed out of town I decided to stop by Munson's house and drop off a copy, as sort of an early Christmas present. It's a long story, how I got from listening to the beginnings of a legendary career in my mother's kitchen to being able to just drop by that same legend's house. Suffice it to say here that the transformation had nothing to do with me or anything I did.

I knocked on the front door rather tentatively. When no one responded I started to just leave the book on the front stoop, beside the ashtray full of cigar butts. Instead, I decided to knock one more time.

"Hold on, I'm coming," came the gruff, gravelly voice on the other side of the door, followed by, "Hello, Huck. Come on in."

The room was dark, except for a lamp next to the coffee table, which was covered with file folders and pieces of paper, football programs and press guides."

"You should see all the young bucks they have on this team," Munson told me as he slowly returned to his seat on the couch. "Man, they are going to be tough as nails to beat. And some of these names! I hope I can learn to pronounce them all."

"Larry," I told him. "The Peach Bowl is almost a month away. Are you already getting ready for the game?"

"No," he answered. "Oklahoma State. They are next year's opener. Those guys are gonna be pretty good, you know."

Story No. 3: It's an October Saturday in 2001. I have spent most of the day trying to peddle my books at Ben Evans' produce stand, even though the Georgia-Tennessee game is on television later that day. My son, Jackson, and I bailed out on the book signing at game time and drove to a friend's house to watch the game. Then the unthinkable happened. The game ran long and we would have to leave before the game ended to drive home. I had to get ready to attend a wedding, of all things.

As we drove home we listened to Larry Munson describe the action from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. How many times had we listened to Larry Munson describe the action?

The ball - and the lead - changed hands a couple of times as we sped across the county to our home, and as we pulled into our driveway, Georgia was trying to fly down the field and overcome a miracle touchdown by Tennessee. There was time for two more plays as the car rolled to a stop. Maybe three.

I threw the car into park and prepared to jump out and run into the house to see the conclusion. Jackson, who was 12 at the time, put his hand on my arm to stop me and said, "Let's listen to Munson. It will be better than watching on TV."

That's how good Larry Munson was. He was so good that a 12-year-old boy would rather listen to his call than see the action on a giant screen.

Millions of words will be written about the career of Larry Munson over the next few days, and thousands of people will try to put into words what he has meant to Georgia football. Larry Munson, the consummate professional who spent months preparing for the task that he would make seem effortless transcends Georgia football. His calls made Georgia football bigger than it was and his genius will be appreciated by countless generations.

He won't paint any more pictures of autumn afternoons between the hedges, but those he has already given us will never, ever be forgotten.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.