ATHENS, Ga. — More than 50 years ago, Richard Appleby, Horace King, Chuck Kinnebrew, Clarence Pope and Larry West walked onto the University of Georgia’s campus with dreams of successful football careers.
It was a dream that turned out to be history-making.
Known as “The Five”, Appleby, King, Kinnebrew, Pope and West became the first Black players to earn football scholarships to UGA in 1971.
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Earlier this week, “The Five” reunited for the first time in 50 years at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta and got a tour of the exhibit in their honor filled with artifacts from when they played at UGA.
The group told Channel 2′s Alison Mastrangelo they are just happy for the chance to see each other again.
“The love is still there. We kind of drifted apart through the years, moved around. To get back together with the other four and be a part of everything that’s going on, it’s a little overwhelming,” Appleby said. “We had no idea what would happen 50 years later. This five was the right five.”
Kinnebrew said it felt like the first time they met.
“We got together and knew there was something special, wasn’t quite sure what. We were able to develop relationships. Now we haven’t seen each other in 50 years, but it’s almost like we’ve known each other for ages. That’s the good part about it,” he told Mastrangelo.
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All five players grew up in Georgia.
Kinnebrew went to West Rome High School and was also a champion wrestler. West grew up in Montezuma in south Georgia and said he was the first African-American to enter middle school in Albany, and one of the first on the Albany High School football team.
Appleby, King and Pope were all teammates on Clarke Central High School’s first integrated team during their senior year.
“The racism, the unrest, the National Guard, tear gas, we experienced all of that at the high school level. When we got to the University of Georgia, it was just a little bit better,” Appleby said.
It didn’t take long for each to leave their mark on the field.
King became the first African-American to score a touchdown for the Bulldogs. He would go on to have a long career in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.
Appleby is part of one of the greatest moments in the Georgia-Florida rivalry.
He played tight end but his touchdown to Gene Washington helped the Dawgs beat Florida in 1975. That was the first time a Black player threw a touchdown in UGA program history.
Appleby said he thought the lack of jealousy among the five and their common work ethic are what made everything work.
He also thanked Dooley for his support and teaching him the importance of accountability.
“We wanted everything to be fair and equal. I think we were able to accomplish that. We never yelled racism. We never blamed Coach Dooley. He gave everyone a fair chance...,” Appleby said. “If not for Coach Dooley, I don’t think it would have worked.”
This week, all five trailblazers and their head coach Vince Dooley will be honored before Saturday’s game against South Carolina.
A monument in Reed Plaza next to Sanford Stadium will also be unveiled in their honor.
The gravity of the moment is not lost on Kinnebrew.
“We knew how important it was, but didn’t fully appreciate or understand the effect of it. But if you look at the numbers 50 years ago and compare the numbers to representative data, you see the tremendous amount of progress that has been made,” he said.
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