Cliff Kimsey Jr.
Feb. 20, 2012
By Loran Smith
CORNELIA - In a few days, the State of Georgia Hall of Fame will honor Georgia's oldest living letterman--Cliff Kimsey Jr., a former player whose versatile and productive abilities made him a favorite of the late Bill Hartman, who coached Kimsey.
For years, there were a number of Kimsey advocates who worked tirelessly on behalf of the stocky Cornelia native for induction into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. One of the reasons the voters, many of whom failed to do their homework, didn't favor Kimsey was that he did not have a resume that included a lot of stats and honors. Hard to gain a bunch of headlines when you are in the backfield with Frank Sinkwich, who happened to be Kimsey's roommate.
Here is Kimsey's assessment of Fireball Frankie as a highly productive tailback, who ultimately won the Heisman trophy. "If I made my block," Kimsey said, "Frank would gain at least 20 yards. If I didn't make my block, he only gained seven or eight."
I've never known a coach to have more respect for a player than Hartman had for Kimsey. He knew Kimsey's value to the team. "Cliff was a hell of an all around back," Hartman said. "He played three positions at Georgia--tailback his sophomore year, spinner back his junior year and blocking back his senior year. Anywhere you put him, he made a difference with your offense. I've never seen a more valuable back to his team. He was an outstanding pass receiver out of the backfield, and he was an especially good punter. I liked everything about him."
It took the voters more years than it should have to vote Kimsey into the Hall, but if all is well that ends well, there are a number of grateful family members and friends of Cliff Kimsey who will be on hand in Macon Saturday Feb. 25th when he will be officially inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. "This is a nice honor," he said recently. "What I appreciate most is what it means to my family. It has made them very proud."
The induction will be a memorable day for Georgia as slight will have been corrected for a player who was most appreciated by his teammates and coaches. Hartman wasn't the only one who appreciated Kimsey's selfless attitude. Kimsey was a player who was the finest example being imbued with team first qualities.
A member of the Greatest Generation, Kimsey, on graduation day in Athens, was handed his diploma and walked a few paces where an Army sergeant placed orders in his hand to report to Ft. Benning. He had a distinguished career in the Pacific, returned home after the war and began coaching high school football. J. V. Sikes, a member of Wallace Butts' staff during Kimsey's time on campus, had been named head coach at the University of Kansas and asked Cliff to join his staff. "Even then," Kimsey says, "you realized that if you didn't get in position to become a head coach early on, it was not a secure profession. He considered his experience in the Sunflower State enlightening, but was eager to return to his hometown for a career in banking which worked out favorably.
Over the years, I have enjoyed many delightful conversations with Cliff, a man who is easily admired for his sincerity, modesty and intellect. I have never had a conversation with him in which he did not express his appreciation for his coach. "There is no way to understand the type of disciplinarian Coach (Wallace) Butts was," he says. "Spring practice lasted from January until finals in June, most of those days in full uniform. A lot of players quit. I thought about it, but couldn't have gone back to Cornelia and said, 'I quit.' The fact is, those players who stayed the duration under Coach Butts left with a lot of character. I know it especially helped me in the Army. That discipline did a world of good."
Loyalty! What's a man's value if he is not loyal? Loyalty was Cliff Kimsey's hallmark. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is honoring a good man.