Of boots and crushed faces

ATHENS, Ga. -- So what is a hobnail boot, anyway?

Larry Munson didn't know. Not until after he told radio listeners that Georgia's football team was wearing one in its defeat of Tennessee in 2001 -- and the Bulldogs' colorful play-by-play announcer provided vivid and violent imagery after he called Verron Haynes' last-second touchdown catch that secured the 26-24 win at Neyland Stadium.

"My God Almighty, did you see what he did? David Greene just straightened up and we snuck the fullback over!" Munson screamed. "We just dumped it over! 26-24! We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!"

Munson -- who died Sunday at age 89 of complications from pneumonia -- already had 35 years of memorable radio calls under his belt at Georgia before that afternoon in Knoxville, but his "Hobnail Boot" call is perhaps his most memorable. Munson selected it as his favorite in his autobiography, "From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot: The Life and Times of Larry Munson," co-written by Tony Barnhart.

And many a Bulldog agrees, choosing the Haynes call even over Munson's descriptions of key plays from Georgia's 1980 championship season involving Herschel Walker -- "My God, a freshman!" from the comeback 16-15 win against Tennessee -- and Lindsay Scott, whom Munson begged, "Run, Lindsay," as he dashed 93 yards for the game-winner against Florida.

"It's definitely an honor, and I can attribute that to Larry Munson. And what he said is one of his most memorable calls," Haynes said. "At the time, he didn't even know what a hobnail boot was. It's definitely an honor. You have guys like Herschel Walker, who did a memorable play. You have the 'Run, Lindsay Run' call. To be up there with those guys, the great ones that have come before me, it's definitely an honor."

Perhaps it was the timing of the play that helped cement its place in Georgia history. The Bulldogs hadn't won in Knoxville since 1980, when Walker plowed over Volunteers safety Bill Bates on the way to the end zone, sparking a rally from a 15-0 deficit.

Georgia had lost nine of the previous 10 meetings with Phil Fulmer and Tennessee when rookie head coach Mark Richt led an unranked Bulldogs team to face the No. 6 Volunteers in his first road game. Most expected Tennessee to roll to yet another win.

It appeared that would happen, as Tennessee's Travis Stephens went 62 yards with a screen pass to give the Vols a 24-20 lead with only 44 seconds to play. But Greene, Georgia's redshirt freshman quarterback, calmly led the Bulldogs 59 yards after taking over with 39 seconds remaining.

Greene hit sure-handed tight end Randy McMichael with completions of 27 and 14 yards -- the second of which set up the Bulldogs at Tennessee's 6-yard line with 10 seconds to play.

That's when Richt made a call that still exists in Georgia's playbook: P-44 Haynes. The fullback slipped straight through the center of Tennessee's defense after the snap and was wide open when Greene hit him in the center of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Wins in opponents' stadiums would become a trademark of Richt's Georgia tenure -- he is now 37-10 in true road games -- but the win in Tennessee was his first, and it always will rank as his first signature win as the Bulldogs' coach.

Asked about the call on the SEC Classic Moments video series, Richt said, "It was awesome, because it was a great victory, but to have Larry Munson, who is legendary already, to have one of his calls of a game that I was involved in is very meaningful to me."

Now about that hobnail boot thing.

For the record, a hobnail boot features small nails that project from the sole, helping the wearer gain traction while walking on icy, snowy and rocky surfaces.

Munson insisted for years that he wasn't even sure what one was when he pulled the reference out of left field to describe Haynes' touchdown.

He explained in his autobiography: "I think I was thinking about those German army boots and how those guys would walk in unison down the street after they had conquered somebody. Maybe I was thinking about jackboots and the hobnailed thing just came out.

"I didn't know what it was until the next day, Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called me. He said that hobnailed boots had been used forever in the lumber industry up in North Carolina, where he is from."

No matter what Munson was thinking when the words escaped his lips, thousands of football fans would learn about a hobnail boot when an iconic radio announcer turned his listeners on to its existence.

And despite the footwear's practical purposes, mention of a hobnail boot brings only one thing to the minds of Georgia fans: the often unusual and instantly endearing descriptions of Larry Munson, broadcasting legend.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.