Elon great Rich McGeorge finally honored

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJune 11, 2012 

Rich McGeorge took the congratulatory phone call on May 22 from former Elon athletic director Alan White from his hospital bed at Duke.

Less than a week earlier, McGeorge had undergone a liver transplant. The former Elon and NFL great figured that’s why White was calling.

"I had no idea about the hall of fame," McGeorge, 63, said this week.

McGeorge is one of seven new inductees from the divisional class for the College Football Hall of Fame. A month ago, he didn’t think he’d live to see another football season, much less make a trip to South Bend, Ind., for the induction ceremony on July 21.

"It’s a miracle," McGeorge said. "I’ve got five grandkids and I’ve been given a second chance to see them grow up."

In the late 1960s, McGeorge played tight end at Elon, which then competed on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level.

At 6-4 and 235 pounds, he had the frame of a modern day tight end and the numbers to match it. He was ahead of his time, even in the "single wing" offense that Elon used.

McGeorge caught 224 passes for 3,486 yards with 31 touchdowns in his college career. As a junior, he finished the 1968 season with 65 catches for 1,081 yards, with a single-game best of 15 catches for 285 yards.

In comparison, North Carolina’s leading receiver, running back Don McCauley, had 23 catches for 313 yards in 1968. Bobby Hall led N.C. State with 17 catches for 231 yards in ’68.

McGeorge, who was a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1970, held Elon’s single-season and career receiving records until 2008.

"It’s an amazing accomplishment if you think about it," said McGeorge’s son, Jason, a former tight end at N.C. State and current head coach at Heritage High School in Wake Forest. "With the way the game has changed, and as much as teams throw now, his numbers still stood up for almost 40 years."

McGeorge spent nine seasons in the NFL with the Packers, first playing with legendary quarterback Bart Starr and then for him, when Starr became the Packers’ coach.

Even as "more of blocker" in the NFL, as McGeorge put it, he finished his pro career with 175 catches for 2,370 yards with 13 touchdowns.

McGeorge retired after the 1979 season and two years later got into coaching with his college coach, Red Wilson, at Duke as an unpaid assistant.

He began a friendship at Duke with Steve Spurrier, who at the time was Wilson’s offensive coordinator. McGeorge would work for Spurrier at three different stops over the next 12 years.

McGeorge was the offensive line coach for Duke’s ACC title team in 1989 and followed Spurrier to Florida, where helped the Gators win the 1991 SEC title. He ended up back at Duke in 2002 with coach Carl Franks and then stayed in the Triangle with jobs at N.C. Central and Shaw.

He left Shaw after six seasons in 2010 because of his liver problems. He went on a donation list in January. At 6-4 and 325 pounds, he wasn’t optimistic about finding a match.

"It was a tough year and a half," McGeorge said. "My health was not good and my chances for a new liver were rare. I feel blessed."

McGeorge had the transplant on May 16 and heard the news about the hall of fame six days later. He has lost 90 pounds since the operation but gained a new perspective.

"Put in the story the importance of being an organ donor," McGeorge said. "It truly is the gift of life."

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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