By Joe Vitale:
In our annual countdown to Georgia’s season opening game, on Tuesday we recognized Joseph Patrick O’Malley, a defensive end from the Wallace Butts era.
Many of you have asked for more information on the handsome number 53 profiled in Tuesday’s countdown. With a thankful introduction from his son Joe of Nashville, we were able to piece together some of the extraordinary accomplishments of O’Malley.
Joe O’Malley was a former captain of the 1954 Georgia Bulldogs. He was a three-year letterman and was a rugged, hard-nosed athlete.
He was a former three-sport standout at Scranton (PA) Technical High School, and is widely considered to be one of the regions all-time greatest athletes.
While at Georgia, the 6’2″, 220-pound O’Malley earned 2nd team All-SEC honors, was an honorable mention All-American and was also a standout on the Georgia track team. He even played freshman basketball. Georgia coach Wallace Butts described O’Malley as “rugged a player as I have ever coached. He’s tops as a defensive end. When he puts his arms around a runner, it’s just like a pair of tongs gripping something.”
After the scoreless 1954 Georgia-Alabama game, the Atlanta Journal reported, “O’Malley was flawless. Every time Alabama tried to run his flank, he murdered them.” As a sophomore, in the Sugar Bowl victory over Tulane, legendary AJC reporter Furman Bisher wrote, “O’Malley put on the finest defensive performance the Sugar Bowl Stadium has ever seen.”
O’Malley was the 47th selection in the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears in 1955 and was traded to Pittsburgh where he played two seasons with the Steelers. He returned to Georgia and became a successful educator and football and basketball coach at Brown High. He won a state title and was recognized as a coach of the year.
He retired in 1994 from General Wholesale Company after a 26-year career. In 1999, O’Malley was inducted into the College Hall of Fame for the University of Georgia.
Sadly, O’Malley passed away March 20, 2015 in Montgomery, Alabama at the age of 83. He was survived by his wife of 54 years, Joyce, and loving children and grandchildren. Joe O’Malley embodied all that is great about the Georgia Bulldogs. He was one ‘Damn Good Dawg’…..and a Dawg Forever.
“Big Joe loved the Georgia Bulldogs. Go Dawgs,” said his son.