Valdosta Daily Times

November 22, 2012

Monkey business

UWA coach was tackled by a man in a monkey costume during a game at VSU in 2003

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — When the Valdosta State football team takes the field Saturday against West Alabama in the second round of the Division II football playoffs, the Blazers will be hoping they can tackle the Tigers and advance to the national quarterfinals.

If the Blazer defense can’t tackle the Tigers, maybe they can call in Curious George to get the job done.

OK, obviously the Blazers won’t be calling in the children’s book character to make tackles during Saturday’s game, but it doesn’t mean the fictional monkey hasn’t made a tackle inside Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in the past.

Here is how it happened: It was Nov. 1, 2003. North Alabama and Valdosta State both entered with undefeated records.

Will Hall, then North Alabama’s Harlon Hill winning quarterback, had just led the Lions to a first down, securing a 17-10 upset win over the Blazers, who entered riding a 36-game regular season winning streak.

Then it happened.

While Hall, who is now the head coach at West Alabama, was standing on the field waiting to take a knee to run out the clock when, out of nowhere, he was tackled by a college student dressed as, you guessed it, Curious George.

The fan dressed as the fictional character had jumped the fence to the field and ran straight for Hall, tackling him to the ground with seconds remaining in the game.

“We had just gotten the first down to ice the game,” Hall recalled during his Monday teleconference with The Times. “It was third down, we ran it and got the first down, and all we had to do was take a knee and ice the game. Then I got tackled from behind and I thought, ‘Man, these guys just hit me late. We should tack on another one just for that.’

 “He had hit me and bent me over, so he flipped over me and then I realized it was a guy wearing a Curious George suit,” Hall continued. “So I chased him down the field and I got tripped up. It was the day after Halloween and all the students were dressed up for the game. After the game, they asked me if I wanted to press charges and I said, ‘No, it was all good.’ But yeah, it was a big deal. I got on the Dan Patrick Show because of it.”

To this day, it is one of the wildest moments for most everyone in attendance that day, including Valdosta State head coach David Dean, then the Blazers’ offensive coordinator under Chris Hatcher.

“I do remember that,” Dean laughed. “I’ve mentioned that to (Will) before, just in joking. I think a couple of years ago I mentioned that we were going to have the monkey show back up. You look back on it now and it is kind of funny, but at the time it was kind of embarrassing.”

The likelihood of Curious George making tackles in Saturday’s game is zero to none. Instead, the Blazers will have to do the tackling themselves in hopes of avenging a 39-28 loss to the Tigers earlier this season.

If they can make the tackles, the Blazers will advance to the regional championship (national quarterfinals) for the first time since 2007, the year of VSU’s last football national championship.

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for 12 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. The winner will face the winner of the Lenoir-Rhyne at Carson-Newman next weekend.